Election Special - Press Review Thursday 10 June 2010
The Netherlands went to the polls yesterday and the election results are the main, if not the only topic in today's Dutch dailies. The message from the voters is confused: the Dutch political landscape has splintered and forming a stable coalition will be an exceptionally difficult task. Perhaps the most dramatic outcome of yesterday's election is the historic loss suffered by the centre-right Christian Democrats CDA.The final results are still not in, but the free-market liberal VVD has emerged as the largest party, taking 31 seats. Labour took 30 seats to become the second largest party and Geert Wilders' right-wing, anti-Islam Freedom Party PVV came third with 24 seats. For the first time in its history, the CDA finished a poor fourth. End of an era "CDA smashed," bellows the right-wing De Telegraaf on its front page above a photo of caretaker Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announcing his resignation as party leader and his departure from Dutch politics. The paper says the CDA "suffered an historic loss, finishing with just 22 seats, representing a humiliating loss of 19 seats". Mr Balkenende described the result as "very, very disappointing". "Dazed and tearful," is how de Volkskrant describes the mood at the CDA post-election gathering, adding that the party faithful listened to the results, "in deathly silence". According to the left-wing paper, Mr Balkenende has accepted the voters' "kiss of death," and tells party loyalists, "The voters have spoken. The results are clear. And I, as party leader, accept responsibility". Neck and neck race "VVD and Labour in photo finish," headlines de Volkskrant, and AD echoes its leader with, "Labour and VVD are neck and neck". The populist tabloid adds, "VVD’s Rutte and Labour's Cohen have been sentenced to working with each other". The VVD may have come out in front, but it is the narrowest victory in Dutch history: until now, the winning party had always emerged with more 40 seats, apart from 1994 when Labour won just 37 seats. Unless Mr Rutte manages to form a stable coalition, this could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the VVD. The winners Yesterday's big winner was Geert Wilders; the right-wing Freedom Party PVV jumped from nine to 24 seats. De Telegraaf says a triumphant Mr Wilders told his jubilant supporters, "the political establishment will not be able to ignore us any more," adding, "this is a glorious day for the entire country". AD reports, "deafening applause greeted Geert Wilders when he announced his party's massive victory," adding that Mr Wilders immediately called on the PVV MPs to "grab the battering rams, we're going to give them hell". De Pers has its doubts about Mr Wilders' contention that the Hague will not be able to ignore his party any longer, writing, "the traditional parties are not eager to embrace the PVV, they see the party as radical, unpredictable, discriminatory and bad for the Netherlands' image abroad". The other big winners were the GreenLeft and the D66 liberals and both parties are likely to be asked to join the new coalition government. D66 leader Alexander Pechtold increased his party's share of the vote by seven seats, taking them to 10, but de Volkskrant says joy and disappointment were there in equal measure" at the post-election party because "last year's opinion polls predicted more than 20 seats for the party". Trouw writes, "GreenLeft leader Femke Halsema over the moon with 11 seats," and NRC.next writes that her supporters "cheered her like a film star," when she joined them at the post-election party. The cheers were even louder when she said, "We're the only left-wing party that won today". The losers Yesterday's election sent shockwaves through the political establishment and there were some big losers. Under the heading "Christian Union regrets its standpoint on homosexuality" NRC.next writes that the conservative Christian party lost one seat and will return just five MPs to the lower house. The Socialist Party lost nine seats, but de Volkskrant writes "SP leader Emile Roemer tries to put positive spin on dramatic loss," adding, "the relatively unknown Mr Roemer had just two months to save his party from disaster and that the party managed to win 16 seats isn't bad at all". De Telegraaf devotes a small paragraph to the fortunes of Rita Verdonk's Proud of the Netherlands' party. She was once the darling of the populist paper's readership but "Verdonk will disappear from the lower house," is how De Telegraaf announces the departure of the right-wing anti-immigration politician. The animal welfare party also fared badly yesterday and Trouw buries its miniscule report on the inside pages: "Animal Rights Party halved, wins one seat,” writes the paper. Botched Most of the papers agree that the Dutch political landscape has been shattered; the quality free paper De Pers writes, "the voters have botched it," adding "a huge victory for Wilders' Islam-bashers, and a completely splintered political landscape: this is what the Dutch have chosen in the midst of a deep economic crisis". The analysis in NRC.next is quite similar: "the Netherlands is divided. Never before has the message from the voters been so confusing. It will be almost impossible to form a stable governing coalition," is the rather despondent message on its front page. Trouw seems to be in agreement, writing "the voters have saddled The Hague with an impossible task". The Protestant paper says the only combination that will have a majority in parliament is, "a coalition of the purple parties and GreenLeft". This means a return to the purple coalition - VVD, Labour and D66 - that ruled in the 1990s, with the addition of the GreenLeft. The Dutch media has dubbed this possible combination as the 'Purple Plus' coalition. Just 74 percent of the electorate bothered to vote and AD says the turnout was "an historic low," adding, "it is hard to understand the public's apathy and indifference in these trying times".
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide