The Netherlands: a fresh impetus despite the government's victory?

Prime Minister Rutte's VVD has, as expected, emerged as the strongest party from the Dutch parliamentary elections, winning 22 percent of the vote. But its coalition partner, the social-liberal D66 under Sigrid Kaag, made the biggest gains, securing second place - up from fourth place in 2017. Commentators believe the new government could offer a surprisingly broad spectrum of opinions.

Open/close all quotes
De Telegraaf (NL) /

The goal should be to govern, not to merge

The classic left-wing parties all lost in the election, which is why there are renewed calls for them to merge into a single party. De Telegraaf sees a better option:

“The left-wing parties know that their supporters don't want squabbling within their own ranks. The flip side of this became clear during the election: in interviews and debates, the leaders of the leftist parties did their utmost to conceal any differences between their parties. ... But on Thursday a prominent left-wing MP reportedly said that governing together with the VVD, CDA and D66 might also be an option. This would indeed be a chance for a minister to heighten the profile of their own club. After all, the opposition camp has become quite crowded. And the result also shows that - merged in an alliance or not - licking wounds in the opposition is by no means a guarantee of success.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A potpourri of opinions

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung finds it exciting that a broad spectrum of opinions is already represented within the coalition:

“Today you can find groups for every taste and every cause in the Dutch party supermarket. ... The extremely low threshold of just 0.7 percent for entering parliament explains this. ... So far, the system has not collapsed. ... However, it requires an unusual level of skill in reaching compromises to keep it working. ... If Rutte and the new political star Kaag reach out to each other - and this is the most likely scenario - things could get really interesting. After all, the two parties have different voter groups behind them and their positions on climate protection, domestic policy and migration issues are quite contradictory.”

El Mundo (ES) /

A heavyweight in the EU thanks to Rutte

The election also underscores the Netherlands' increasing importance within the EU, observes El Mundo:

“The election victory strengthens not only Rutte himself, who will become the longest-serving head of government of the EU-27 once Merkel steps down, but also the Netherlands. The country has become a key factor in every important EU decision. Rutte's assertive stance concerning issues like migration or Brexit has strengthened his clout among the heads of government. During the negotiations about the future of the Eurozone last year, he led those referred to as the 'Frugal' in demanding a halt to direct payments to prevent debt from skyrocketing.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

D66 dared to talk about awkward issues

The left-liberals owe their success to their top candidate, analyses NRC Handelsblad:

“The VVD's campaign was based solely on leadership: Mark Rutte is the prime minister who has proven in the past ten years that he can lead the Netherlands through crises. But this kept awkward issues like the climate or the child benefit affair out of the election campaign. Sigrid Kaag was the only dissenting voice. She campaigned with the slogan that it was time for 'new leadership'. She made a solid impression in the debates. She dared to be the only one to express opinions, for example on the coronavirus passport (which she was the only one to campaign for).”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

The left's ideas were stolen

The Social Democrats and Greens were completely marginalised by the election winners, De Volkskrant comments:

“The real tragedy of this election played out on the left. As a mitigating circumstance one can point out that the conservative parties were so successful because they appropriated left-wing ideas such as corporate taxation and raising the minimum wage. The reaction from both GroenLinks and the Labour Party was to move even further to the left, with even tougher criticism of neoliberalism and the economy, the demand for even more diversity and an even greener environment. This platform didn't appeal to the vast majority of voters.”