After his fourth consecutive win, the liberal-conservative Mark Rutte is now leading talks to form a government in the Netherlands and doesn’t rule out any help in order to extend his time in power.
Prime minister since 2010 and leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD, the acronym in Dutch), Rutte said today that he considers the far-right party JA21 as a valid option for the coalition that will lead this country until 2025.
The goal now for the 54-year-old politician is to obtain a majority in the House of Representatives and the highest number of seats possible in the Senate, regardless of who helps him accomplish that.
During some abnormal elections due to Covid-19, the VVD obtained 35 of the 150 seats in the Lower House, three more than in 2017, but insufficient to govern alone.
Therefore, Rutte will have to reach an agreement with several of the 17 parties that were able to win parliamentary representation, a process that threatens to be complex.
Four months ago, the discussions to establish an alliance lasted about seven months and concluded with an agreement between the VVD, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), the Democrats 66 (D66) and the Christian Union (CU).
However, on this occasion the D66 were the second most voted party and won 23 seats (five more), while CDA dropped to 15 seats (four less) and CU remained at five.
The high number of parties represented fragmentates the Lower House . Adding to this are the differences with the PVV and the rise of D66, that may lead to increased demands.
Meanwhile, the weakening of the CDA would lead to its withdrawal from relevant ministries and strong confrontations are foreseen due to different ideologies and objectives, which would prevent repeating the existing formula that has been in place until now. Even though JA21 has only three seats, its inclusion would give Rutte the 76 seats he needs in order to carry out any of the possible combinations.
One element to consider is the rise of far-right organisations, albeit scattered, many of them against the measures taken in order to contain the pandemic.
According to British analyst Anna Holligan, the results of these elections are interpreted as validation to Rutte’s actions for containing the Covid-19 virus, but the nation is now facing a surge in cases and other issues that remain unsolved.
During the last few weeks, thousands of people took to the streets to oppose the restrictions and were stopped by the police.
On the other hand, the issue that called for elections remained unresolved: more than 26,000 families, most of them of foreign background, are awaiting a response for the losses they suffered after being accused of defrauding the state.
In statements to the press, sociologist and researcher Paul Schnabel explained that the resignation of the whole cabinet on 15 January meant a way out in order to avoid a losing parliamentary debate regarding a motion of censure. It’s not the first time Rutte resigned. He did it in 2012, while facing a crisis caused by differences with PVV, and was re-elected.
According to Professor Alexander Clarkson from King’s College in the United Kingdom, the first rule of Dutch politics is that Rutte always wins, regardless of costs or implications. (PL)