Review: 2017 Dutch Parliamentary Election

Prime Minsiter Rutte’s VVD managed to remain the largest party despite being challenged by populist Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom. (Photo from DW)


With 28 parties on the ballot, the Dutch election was going to be chaotic no matter the result.  An unpopular coalition government combined with the right wing populist “wave” across Europe caused some questions about what the outcome would be (as we discussed in our election preview).  Eleven parties made it into the House of Representatives following the 2012 election, and that number is set to expand this year as well.

The big story of the day is Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) defending their title of largest party, outperforming polls and our own projections.  Ipsos exit polling showed them at around 31 seats, higher than the polling predictions between 24 and 28 seats, and the updated results from NOS show them at 32 seats.  The right wing populist and anti-Islam PVV also fell outside our predicted range of 20 to 28 seats, being projected to receive only 19 seats.  The last second swing is likely due to the recent controversy involving Rutte kicking out Turkish ministers who attempted to visit, hoping to stop the visiting ministers from impacting the election.  The Dutch overwhelmingly saw it as strong leadership, something Wilders had criticized Rutte for lacking.

The exit polls showed that 13 parties will enter parliament, making future coalition negotiations very difficult.

Updated results via NOS showed that that coalition building may be easier than expected, as the VVD over-performed in combination with the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and market-friendly liberals Democrats 66 (D66) both rising as well in recent weeks.  These three parties would just short of a majority, and adding the Christian Union (CU) or Labour Party as a 4th coalition member would give them a majority.  This is a far better scenario for the VVD than the 5 or 6 party coalitions we had predicted.

The success of these three parties has been seen as a vote of confidence in favor of the EU and shows that right wing populism may not be as strong as predicted, having serious ramifications for the upcoming French and German elections in which the National Front and Alternative for Germany have upset the norm in each country’s political climate.  The country saw a very high 81% turnout which seems to have worked in favor of the more pro-EU parties instead of the populist ones.

Meanwhile on the left, the left-wing green party, GroenLinks (GL), has grown significantly under the leadership of the young Jesse Klaver.  His youthful energy has made GroenLinks a significant force on the left (rising from 4 to 14 seats), as Labour has collapsed; Labour’s fall from 38 to 9 seats is the largest loss of seats in Dutch political history.  The other leftist parties had little change.  The Socialists may lose one of their 15 seats, the Party for the Animals gained 3 additional seats (bringing their total to 5), 50Plus’s last minute drop in the polls meant that they only gained an additional 2 seats (4 total), and finally the new DENK party entered parliament with 3 seats.  Overall, the election was a defeat for the left, as they in total only earned 50 seats.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s “People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy” are celebrating a victory over Wilders’s “Party for Freedom” despite losing seats. (Photo from AP)

In general the right had more success, despite VVD’s losses (33 seats compared to 41 before).  The rest of the right made gains: the Party for Freedom gained 5 seats (20 total), Christian Democratic Appeal gained 6 seats (19 total), Christian Union gained stayed even at 5 seats, the Reformed Political Party stayed even at 3 seats, and the more moderate right wing populist Forum for Democracy entered parliament for the first time with 2 seats.  For the Netherlands received only 0.4% of the vote, failing to break the 0.67% cutoff.

Democrats 66, a more market friendly social-liberal party that is hard to place explicitly on either side of the spectrum, gained 7 seats to reach a total of 19.  They are very likely to be part of whatever coalition that results from the election as they are related to the conservative-liberal VVD.

Party leaders offered their opinions on the results in various fashions.  According to CNN, Wilders took to Twitter, focusing on the gained seats instead of his loss to VVD, stating “PVV voters thanks. We won seats, first victory is in. Rutte hasn’t got rid of me yet.”  The aforementioned Prime Minister considered the election a defeat of populism, “This is a night for the Netherlands… After Brexit, after the US election, we said ‘stop it, stop it’ to the wrong kind of populism.”  The feeling around Europe has also been reassurance that “Nexit” is not the next crisis in the European Union, and the Euro is likely to be stronger following this result.


Mark Rutte: The Prime Minister’s party suffered the loss of 8 seats, but he managed to use a last minute crisis with the Turkish ministers to his advantage, easily seeing off the challenge of Geert Wilders, who had led in polling for months.  He will most likely be Prime Minister once again, and VVD is currently unchallenged for the top spot in Dutch politics after the fall of Labour.

The Party for Freedom: This may seem like a shock due to the headlines saying Wilders was a dud, but his party finished in second place and gained 5 seats.  They have become a force in Dutch politics and the other parties must be aware of them from now on.  Wilders changed the game, and the talking points, so he won, just not in the way he had hoped.

The European Union: It is safe to say there were worries about the euroskeptics (PVV, SP, and FvD) in the Netherlands.  This election was a barometer of the support for the EU, and populism on the right and the left seems to be weaker than feared.  Those three parties combined gained a net of only 6 seats, hardly a large anti-EU push.

Classical-Liberal/Libertarians: The two parties in the libertarian part of the spectrum, VVD and D66, finished in 1st and 4th respectively.  Combined they lost 1 seat, but in total hold 52 seats now; that is over one-third of the House of Representatives.  With only 2 parties in the ideological faction, they managed to win more seats than both the left (49 seats) and more “pure” right (49 seats if you don’t include VVD).  This makes the Netherlands one of the strongest countries when it comes to classical-liberal parties.

GroenLinks: The Greens have jumped their way into the major party fight, gaining 10 seats and earning 8.9% of the vote.  Despite the fact they only finished in 6th, GL was only 0.3% of the vote away from being the strongest leftist party.  They are on the rise and could be a force to reckon with since there is a void in leadership to fill with Labour falling.


The Labour Party: Labour suffered the biggest defeat ever seen in Dutch political history, falling from 2nd to 7th place.  They have been the strongest force on the left, but instead they suffered greatly from being the VVD’s junior-coalition partner.

The Left: Connected with Labour, the left in general is chaotic.  There is no longer one party leading it (as the VVD leads the right), and they only hold 49 seats.  Even if you try to lump in D66 with the left, which is debatable, they only hold 67 seats.  If they want to have a chance at leading a government any time soon, there needs to be significant changes made.

Even after the results become official, we won’t know the official coalition for a few weeks to potentially months, as Dutch coalition negotiations are known to take a long time.  We will post an update following the creation of a government as well as update this post when the results are final.  Tomorrow we will also be posting a subjective evaluation of the election apart from our more data focused analysis here.

Sources: CNN, BBC, AP, Bloomberg, Politico Europe, DW, various Twitter stories, and results from NOS.

Author: Brendan Noble

I am a political consultant, data-analyst, Hillsdale College economics alumnus, and conservative-libertarian. Twitter: @Brendan_Noble

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