Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte vowed yesterday to work hard to quickly form a Cabinet after receiving a solid mandate to battle Europe’s debt crisis at the expense of anti-EU populists.
His ruling VVD party won Wednesday’s election with 41 seats, just two more than the center-left Labor Party, while far-right leader Geert Wilders’ PVV party suffered a humiliating defeat and far-left Socialist leader Emile Roemer made no gains.
“We will not betray your trust,” Rutte said after his party won the most seats ever, an upset to a European trend that has seen governments toppled around the continent as the debt crisis bites ever deeper.
“Tomorrow, we get to work and the Netherlands must as quickly as possible have a stable Cabinet and then I’ll start working with you so that the Netherlands can emerge stronger from the crisis,” Rutte told a victory party in The Hague late on Wednesday night.
The victory by Rutte’s VVD, closely followed by rising Labor Party star Diederik Samsom, means that the new coalition will be moderate and it marks a victory for parties committed to debt-busting austerity.
The vote reflected the Netherlands’ commitment to its enduring relationship with Europe and it will keep the eurozone’s fifth-largest economy closely allied with economic powerhouse Germany.
“This is one of the only leaders in Europe that has had elections right in the middle of the crisis and who was re-elected,” said Claes de Vreese, political communications lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. “In fact, when you look at the results, he wasn’t only re-elected, but his support grew.”
If the two main parties agree an alliance, VVD and Labor would have 80 seats, a majority in the 150-seat parliament, but the coalition would likely want more partners.
Final results were due to be announced by the Electoral Commission later yesterday, with coalition-building talks to begin immediately, but it will take weeks, if not months, for a new government to be agreed.
Both parties had lashed out at the EU “status quo” during campaigning, but the Dutch export-based economy could not afford to call into question membership in the bloc, where it sends 75 percent of its exports.
Samsom, a former Greenpeace activist and nuclear physicist, has enjoyed a stellar rise thanks to his success in televised debates, with opinion polls just a month ago predicting his party would win just 15 seats.