As I have noted before, there has been a possibly unprecedented trend in the last decade or so around the world for exceptionally close election races between a country’s top two parties. Add the Netherlands 2010 to this list. Moreover, it is yet another parliamentary outcome that raises the question of whether the largest party should necessarily have the right to move first in attempting to put together a coalition government.
As of the early morning hours, the Liberals (VVD) are one seat ahead of Labour, according to AFP. Throughout much of the night, the two parties were tied on 31 seats.
Given that the chamber has 150 seats, the government that is ultimately formed will involve bargaining among several parties. Of the other parties, the big winner–relative to last election–was the so-called Party for Freedom.
Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), which demands an end to immigration from Muslim countries and a ban on new mosques, took its number of lawmakers from nine in the last parliament to 24, and could hope to enter a coalition government.
The VVD was also a substantial winner, gaining about ten seats. Almost certainly it will lead the government (whether or not it ends up with the most seats in parliament). The big question is whether the PVV will have cabinet posts.
And the big loser:
Pushed into fourth place was the Christian Democratic Action party of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The CDA, which has been in almost all Dutch governments since World War II, lost 20 seats to end at 21.
The AFP says, “With none of the competing 18 parties able to rule alone, the party that arrives on top will lead coalition negotiations.” That is not necessarily true, of course. The Netherlands may have a convention that the first party gets to try first (does it?), but if another party besides the largest is better placed to form a government, it will be beginning formal negotiations quite soon. Whether it concludes them soon is, of course, a different question.