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EP election turnout up asPvdA, CDA finish on top

11 June 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch voter turnout on Thursday was up significantly as the Christian Democrat CDA and Labour PvdA ended with seven seats each in the election for the new European Parliament. Debutante anti-EU fraud party Transparent Europe won two seats. 

The turnout of 39.1 percent was much large than expected and compared favourably with the 1999 European election when just under 30 percent of eligible Dutch voters actually made it to the polling booth. Thursday’s turnout was also larger than that recorded in 1994 when 35.6 voted.

The CDA won nine seats at the 1999 election and the Dutch government party thus lost ground on Thursday, but main opposition party PvdA grabbed an extra seat and claimed that it “won” the election, news agency ANP reported.

Despite the loss seats, CDA election leader Camiel Eurlings was pleased by the party’s results, due primarily to the fact that it won the most votes on a percentage basis. The CDA won 24.5 percent and the PvdA gained 23.6 percent of the vote.

The Liberal VVD was hit hard by losing two seats and now holds just 4 seats in the Strasbourg-based Parliament. Leader Jozias van Aartsen blamed the party’s losses on internal troubles which stole headlines in recent days.

The party was shaken this week by the surprise resignation of VVD Education State Secretary Annette Nijs and former VVD leader Hans Dijkstal sharply rebuked the party’s anti-immigration stance, likening Van Aartsen to a crime boss.

The greatest winner of the election was the new party Europa Transparant (Transparent Europe). The party was set up by Paul van Buitenen, a former EU civil servant known as the European “whistle blower” who unveiled large scale fraud within the European Commission, leading to the resignation of the European Commission headed by Jacques Santer.

Converting Transparent Europe’s electoral success into representation in the Dutch Lower House of Parliament, Tweede Kamer, the party would have claimed a substantial hold by gaining 11 seats.

The Socialist Party also enjoyed a successful election, gaining an extra seat to bring its tally to two. Green-left GroenLinks lost ground, losing half of its four seats, while the Democrat D66 was reduced from two seats to just one.

The combined ticket of the small Christian parties, ChristenUnie/SGP, fell from three seats to two.

Other parties such as the populist LPF — the party of assassinated politician Pim Fortuyn — and the animal-protection party PvdD failed to win any seats. The New Right (Nieuw Rechts) party also failed to win a seat.

It was suggested on Radio 1 on Thursday night that the VVD and D66 losses were converted into votes for the LPF, PvdD and Transparent Europe, news agency Novum reported.

It is difficult to make a comparison to the results of 1999 because the Netherlands’ representation in the 732-seat Parliament was reduced from 31 to 27 due to the 1 May expansion of the EU to include 10 new member states. Nearly 349 million will have a chance to vote.

But how large the Liberal, Christian Democrat and Social Democrat factions in the European Parliament will be depends upon the results in the other EU member states.

The Netherlands and Britain kick-started voting on Thursday and voting will continue through the EU until Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, PvdA leader Wouter Bos was pleased with the party’s performance and said it was the first time that the CDA — under leadership of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende — lost.

He said it was a signal that voters are fed up with his policies and that “the coalition has lost one-fifth of its votes.” Bos also said the election result was “beautiful”.

But Balkenende spoke glowingly over the higher voter turnout, claiming that Europe has become more appealing for the Dutch electorate.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news