Sunday, June 4, 2017

Michael Ellman: An Update on Dutch Elections

I received the following Update on Dutch elections from Professor Michael Ellman (Amsterdam University) and I am delighted to publish it as a guest post:

Dutch politics have vanished from the headlines after the party of Wilders failed to become the biggest in the lower house of Parliament. However, up till now it has proved impossible to form a new coalition government. 

After some weeks of negotiating, the first attempt to do so has collapsed on  the issue of migration. The right wing parties (Rutte & his Christian Democratic friends) wanted strict control over non-EU migration. The Green-Left party (which did well in the recent elections) was against this. However, I expect that one way or another a coalition will be cobbled together (the public does not want new elections and regards it as the obligation of the politicians to overcome the difficulties). 

Even if it proves impossible to form a coalition with a majority in Parliament, it is always possible to form a government with a large number of seats but still a minority (considering the divisions among the opposition parties) but this is generally considered undesirable since it makes it very difficult to pursue coherent and consistent policies (if the opposition parties unite they can defeat any government proposal they do not like). A coalition with a majority is obviously much more desirable and has a reasonable chance of being realised after further inter-party negotiations. 

Prolonged inter-party negotiations after elections are normal in the Netherlands. They result from a proportional representation system without a threshold (such as 5%) and which therefore enables any party with more than 0.67% of the votes to get a member into the 150 seat lower house. This has the advantage that it enables all shades of opinion to be represented (for example, there is an animal rights party, and two Calvinist parties, amongst others in the lower house) but makes forming a majority government difficult. The strong position of the Wilders party and the Socialist party (both regarded as unacceptable coalition partners by the mainstream) obviously makes coalition-forming more difficult than usual.

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