Netherlands: Moderate Parties Hold Onto Power

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general election in the Netherlands on March 15 led to a fragmented parliament, meaning a coalition of several parties will be needed to form a government. Through the results, voters expressed frustration with the establishment parties in power but also mostly rejected extremism.

According to early results, Prime Minister Mark Rutte's center-right People's Party of Freedom and Democracy won 32 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, clearing the way for Rutte's reappointment as prime minister. But although Rutte's party managed to remain the most popular in the country, it lost nine seats from the previous election in 2012. In the meantime, Rutte's current coalition partners, the center-left Labor Party, suffered a major defeat, falling from 38 seats to only 10.

It was a particularly disappointing election for the Euroskeptic Party for Freedom, which obtained 19 seats. This was an improvement from the 15 seats it held previously but considerably below what opinion polls predicted earlier in the year. Even before the vote, party leader Geert Wilders had little chance of becoming prime minister; the rest of the parties refused to accept him as a coalition partner. But Wilders was hoping that a strong performance would boost his influence in Dutch politics. Wilders' worse-than-expected performance will also be a disappointment for like-minded parties in countries such as France, where presidential elections will take place in April and May.

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One of the most notable results of the election was the strong performance of the Green Left party, a coalition of environmentalist and left-wing forces. The party received 14 seats, a considerable increase from the four seats it won in 2012. The party's record performance shows that a significant number of voters migrated from the mainstream parties to this relatively fringe force. Finally, the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal party won 20 seats (up from 13 in 2012), and the center-left D66 party won 18 seats (up from 12 in 2012), which makes both parties potential members of the next coalition government.

With the election over, the political parties will have to start negotiations to form a government. At least 76 seats in the House of Representatives are required to control a majority, which means that the next government coalition will include at least three different parties. A minority government is also possible, but it would still require a majority of votes to be appointed. There is no time limit for the formation of a government, which means that coalition talks could last for weeks, if not months.

"Netherlands: Moderate Parties Hold Onto Power" is republished with permission of Stratfor.

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