The right-wing VVD and prime minister Mark Rutte emerged the winners of Wednesday's general election, with a revitalised Labour party a strong second, making a coalition between the two in some form almost inevitable. The VVD has 41 seats and Labour 39, giving them a combined 80 seats in the 150-seat parliament.'No one saw this enormous victory coming,' television pundit Ferry Mingelen said.
Gains early in the campaign for the Socialist Party disappeared. The SP won 15 seats, the same as its current total.The big shock of the evening was the 43% drop in support for Geert Wilders' anti-immigration PVV as voters shifted away from his populist policies. The PVV, which campaigned on an anti-Europe ticket, won 15 seats - nine down on its current total. The left-wing greens GroenLinks were also punished by voters, losing seven of their 10 seats. New party 50+ debuts with two seats.
Television pundits said the shift away from the SP and PVV shows voters want a return to the centre and an end to fringe politics. The change in voting patterns is also being seen as a reinforcement of Dutch support for Europe. Behind-the-scenes talks on forming a new coalition are likely to begin as soon as the dust has settled on Thursday.
Addressing PvdA supporters, leader Diederik Samsom said it was an extremely special evening. 'One thing is clear, the right-wing policies of the previous years have had it,' he told his audience at Amsterdam's Paradiso music venue. Although the VVD and PvdA control a majority of seats in the 150-seat parliament it will not be easy for them to work together and many insiders say a third party will be necessary to oil the wheels if a left-right alliance is to be a real option. 'Voters are very divided in their approach,' pundit Mingelen said. 'Both the VVD and PvdA feel like winners and it will be a very difficult negotiation process. They both want to translate their ideas into policy.'
RTL's political commentator Frits Wester said he expects the VVD and Labour to bring in two centre parties - D66 and the Christian Democrats - to form a strong alliance with a majority in the upper house of parliament. Despite their differences on the housing market, market forces in healthcare and development aid, the VVD and PvdA do take a similar line on Europe, Wester pointed out. 'Labour has always supported the VVD on European issues,' he pointed out. Mark Rutte, one of the first European leaders to survive the eurocrisis congratulated Samsom on his 'unbelievable performance'. In terms of forming a new coalition, it will be 'heavy hitting' for our ideas, he said.
The new-look lower house of parliament
VVD 41 (31)
PvdA 39 (30)
PVV 15 (24)
CDA 13 (21)
SP 15 (15)
D66 12 (10)
GroenLinks 3 (10)
ChristenUnie 5 (5)
SGP 3 (2)
PvdD 2 (2)
50+ 2 (0)