Mon, Mar 06, 2017 - Page 7 News List

A quick guide to
the Dutch elections

What is the story and why is it important?

By Jon Henley  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Mountain People

The Netherlands holds parliamentary elections on Wednesday next week. Polls have long predicted that the anti-Muslim, anti-EU Geert Wilders’ populist Party for Freedom (PVV) could emerge as the country’s largest party, although Wilders is thought unlikely to enter government.

After Britain’s EU referendum and US President Donald Trump’s win at the polls, a PVV victory could be seen as fitting a developing narrative of nativist, anti-establishment movements on the rise.

The probable strong showing by the far-right French National Front leader Marine Le Pen in May’s French presidential poll reinforces this view. Some observers believe the EU’s future is in play.

What is the political landscape and how does the system work?

There are 150 MPs in the Dutch parliament, meaning a government needs 76 seats to form a majority. No single party ever manages this and the Netherlands has been governed by coalitions for more than 100 years.

Parliament is elected by proportional representation in a single, nationwide constituency — which means that any party that wins 0.67 percent of the national vote is assured of a seat.

Dutch politics have been marked in recent decades by a sharp decline in support for the three main parties of government from the center-right and left. Their share of the vote has shrunk from more than 80 percent in the 1980s to a projected 40 percent this year.

This is a trend visible across Europe. In the Netherlands, it has been paralleled by a proliferation of smaller special interest parties: No fewer than 28 of them, many new, are contesting this election. As many as 14 are forecast to win seats, including eight with 10 or more MPs.

It is this fragmentation of the vote, rather than a big increase in support, that could see the PVV become the largest party. The movements that produced Brexit and Trump won more than half the vote; Wilders’ is forecast to get below 20 percent.

Who is Wilders and

what does he want?

Wilders was elected as an MP representing the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) 19 years ago, then became an independent before founding the PVV in 2006 — a party defined mostly by its virulent opposition to Muslims and what it describes as the “Islamization” of the Netherlands.

Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans in December last year and at his campaign launch denounced “Moroccan scum who make the streets unsafe.”

He lives under 24-hour police protection.

The PVV is not a normal party; Wilders is its only member. Its one-page election manifesto promises mainly anti-Muslim measures such as closing mosques and Muslim schools, banning sales of the Koran and barring Muslim migrants.

It also pledges to withdraw the Netherlands from the EU, close Dutch borders and spend more on security and defense and less on wind power and foreign aid. Several proposals breach international law and the Dutch constitution.

Which other parties

are standing?

The VVD of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, on target for between 23 and 27 seats, and its coalition partner, the center-left Labor Party (PvdA), are on course to lose 30 percent and 70 percent of their MPs respectively.

Medium-sized parties likely to win between 10 and 20 seats are the Christian Democratic Party (CDA) and liberal-progressive Democrats 66 (D66), both parties of government since the 1960s, plus the more radical Socialist Party (SP) and fast-growing Green-Left Party (GL), which is likely to quadruple its MPs.

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