Today’s Opinion: “Interesting times”

POSTED: 03/4/11 8:48 PM

The political future of the Rutte cabinet hangs in the balance – for a bit, at least – after the fall-out of yesterday’s regional elections that Also determine the makeup of the Dutch senate. The Dutch government faces tough times if it fails to keep its majority in the senate.

When all the votes were counted, CDA, VVD and Freedom Party remained stuck on 37 seats, one shy of a majority. With that result the government will always need support from the opposition for the approval of any piece of legislation.

But the real decisions about the makeup of the senate will be decided in May, when members of the regional parliament vote for the senate seats. And as political polling expert Maurice de Hond pointed out yesterday, it has happened more than once that some votes went to a different party, thereby upsetting the balance. The coalition could therefore very well still end up with the senate majority it so desperately wants. It’s just a matter off political dealmaking.

Bt even if that does not work out, the one seat minority position looks worse than it really is, because the collation itself runs the government with a minority that depends on the support of the Freedom Party.
Within the coalition, the election results were mixed. Mark Rutte’s VVD improved 2 seats to 14, the Freedom Party will barge into the senate for the first time with 10 seats and Maxime Verhagen’s CDA suffered another humiliating defeat at the hands of the electorate; it saw its presence in the senate shrink from 21 to 11.

The Labor Party remained stable on 14 seats, while D66 tripled to 6. The socialist Party lost a third of its seats and keeps 8, Green Left went from 4 to 5 and the smaller parties (christian Union, SGP, Party for animals and 50Plus) have the remaining 5 seats.

The coalition will have to look for support to the small Christian Parties and on occasion probably towards D66.

But everything comes at a price in politics. For sure, the act that Rutte and Co. will have to negotiate with the senate will make it more likely that extreme ideas will be kept at bay. Besides, at times the senate has proven that it is not rubberstamping everything it gets on its plate, so even the support from members of the coalition factions is not always guaranteed.

There are interesting times ahead in the Netherlands. Unless of course, we wake up in May to find out that the coalition has secured its majority with some obscure political backroom deal..


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