On Wednesday, 15 March, Dutch nationals, including 77,500 Dutch expats living around the world, voted for Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right party.
Rutte’s centre-right party (VVD) won the most seats, according to early exit polls. Rutte said that the election of his party represented a “rejection of the wrong sort of populism”.
Rutte’s party won 31 out of 150 seats, a loss of one-quarter of its previous seats, but the largest number of seats of any one party and far ahead of anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders’ PVV with only 19 seats (a gain of four seats).
Voters had a huge choice: 28 parties with thousands of candidates ranging in age from 93-year-old visual artist Johan de Haas to 17-year-old Malou Herstel, both candidates of the Party for the Animals.
The Green Party, lead by Jess Klaver, had a 14 percent increase in votes, the biggest gain of all the parties.
France’s president François Hollande said Rutte’s win was, “…a victory against extremism”, a sentiment that was echoed in Germany’s foreign minister’s words when he said, the result was, “…a terrific result – the Netherlands are the champions”. France holds its General Election 23 April and Germany 24 September.
Wilders had been leading with a 20 percent of voters’ support going in to the last week of campaigning, but final polls just before Wednesday suggested it was waning with current prime minister Mark Rutte gaining ground along with a host of other parties, potentially leaving Dutch politics in disarray.
Just days before voting, Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) were expected by some commentators to win the largest share of votes. However, on the day, when the turnout was estimated to be a record-breaking 81 percent, it was Rutte who surged ahead.
Once the polling stations closed, the unofficial polling result was published based on the ‘quick count of votes’ by the electoral committees. The official election result will be published later in a public sitting of the Electoral Council. The current House of Representatives will be dissolved, after which the new House of Representatives will take office.
However, it can take days, weeks or even months for Dutch parties to agree on a coalition.
Formation of a cabinet
On 21 March, the new House of Representatives will hold a debate about the election result. Since 2012, the House of Representatives has taken the initiative on forming a new Cabinet, instead of the King. During the debate the House designates a so-called informateur, it is his or her job to work out which coalition of political parties could form a new Cabinet. The formation process may last several weeks and sometimes up to half a year. Once a coalition has been agreed on, the King swears in the new ministers and state secretaries and the Cabinet sets to work.