Dutch election: Conservative win in Dutch poll despite record of austerity cuts
WORK to build a new ruling coalition in the Netherlands started yesterday, after conservative leader Mark Rutte bucked a European trend by winning an election despite pushing through tough austerity measures to counter the continent’s devastating debt crisis.
• Two main parties defeated Euro-sceptics in election
• Result paves the way for Rutte to take second term as prime minister
“Now we have to focus on forming, as soon as possible, a stable government,” Mr Rutte said as MPs from his free-market VVD party cheered.
Mr Rutte later said he would not discuss coalition negotiations, to avoid jeopardising the sensitive talks.
The VVD won ten extra seats, giving it 41 overall in the 150-seat House of Representatives. Its closest rival – and now most likely coalition partner – Diederik Samsom’s Labour, grew by nine seats to 39.
It remains unclear when the two will meet to discuss joining forces, but it appeared they were in no hurry.
Former social affairs minister Henk Kamp, a senior member of the VVD, was appointed to investigate possible coalitions and will report back to MPs when they meet for the first time since the election on 20 September.
The major gains for two of the Netherland’s strongest supporters of the European Union were a significant boost for EU unity and a heavy defeat for Eurosceptics.
Firebrand Geert Wilders was hammered at the polls, losing nine of his Freedom Party’s 24 seats after campaigning to pull the Netherlands out of the EU and dump the euro. The far-left Socialist Party was unchanged at 15 seats.
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said the poll outcome “strengthens Europe and weakens populists and ‘re-nationalists’”.
“After the important decisions of the last few days, we must now use the momentum to develop Europe further and make it fit for the future in times of globalisation,” he added.
Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the conservative Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, said the results would resonate well beyond Dutch borders.
“They are a slap in the face of anti-European extremism and populism,” he said. “Dutch voters clearly chose to reinforce pro-European measures.”
Since Europe’s debt crisis erupted in 2009, Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi quit, Greece’s government fell and French president Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative like Mr Rutte, was voted out of office. Governments also fell in Spain and Ireland. Mr Rutte, 45, a piano-playing bachelor known for his boundless optimism, somehow reversed the tide.
“It is a very strong message from the Dutch public that they are not punishing parties that want to be credible with their solutions,” said Piotr Kaczynski of the Centre for European Policy Studies.
Mr Rutte and Mr Samsom will now have to see if they can build a coalition. That may not be easy. Mr Rutte called Labour’s policies “dangerous for the Netherlands” during the campaign, while Mr Samsom says he wants to see a more social platform from the next government.
“The direction can and must change,” Mr Samsom told supporters in Amsterdam. “Because the right-wing policies of the last two years cannot continue.”
The leader of the House of Representatives met party leaders yesterday afternoon to investigate possible coalitions and then reported to Queen Beatrix.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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