October 27, 2016
Unity of the Dutch left?
The main political development in the Dutch political landscape since the last general election has been the collapse in support for the Dutch labour party PvdA, the junior coalition party to Mark Rutte's VVD. The two parties won 38 and 41 seats respectively in 2012, which gave them together a comfortable majority in the 150-seat Tweede Kamer. But recent opinion polls give the PvdA just 11 seats or thereabouts. It might drop from second to seventh place. This seems extreme even for a junior coalition partner. It is thus perhaps not surprising that PvdA leader Diederik Samson has been exploring alliances with other left parties. Before the summer, it was reported that Samson and the then leader of the GroenLinks (green left) party Bram van Ojik were having talks about cooperating in the next election, which might have gone as far as forming a common parliamentary group after the election. However, since then the GL replaced its leader with Jesse Klaver, who prefers looser but broader cooperation among the left parties, including the left-liberal D66 and the socialist party SP. Samson is known for his environmental credentials, but he's also involved in a leadership contest, so the position of the PvdA on these alliances might change.
Klaver, whose GL party is benefitting the most from the loss of support of the PvdA (it is projected to gain about ten seats from its current four) is proposing that the four left-wing parties adopt a common platform of broad principles before and after the election. These are, according to NRC: reducing inequality, increasing opportunities for children, reducing market forces in healthcare, greening of the economy, and stopping further labour market flexibility. Klaver thinks that the Christian democratic CDA and the conservative Christian Union could also work with his proposed progressive alliance, because they share values of "community and green stewardship".
It may seem excessive to suggest an alliance of six parties, but with the VVD expected to lose about one third of its seats, and Geert Wilders' party of freedom PVV projected to come at least in second place with about 25 seats, polls suggest no less than four parties would be needed to form a 76-seat majority in the parliament. The six parties that Klaver proposes, CDA, D66, SP, Gl, PvdA and CU, could have a theoretical majority together - but the VVD should be expected to get a first try at forming a government as the foreseeable largest party in the next parliament.