The two ruling parties – PvdA and the VVD – both lost support in Wednesday’s local elections, with the PvdA losing control of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam.
D66 was the big winner of the evening, emerging as the biggest party in Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Enschede, Groningen, Wageningen, Amersfoort, Haarlem, Delft, Leiden, Zoetermeer, Apeldoorn and Tilburg.
Support for local parties also rose, giving them a combined 30% of the vote. In Maastricht, for example, a party for seniors is now the biggest group on the city council with six seats.
Eindhoven is the only major city where Labour is still the biggest party, with just one more seat than the Socialists. Nationwide, the PvdA took just over 10% of the vote, down from 15% four years ago.
Labour leader Diederik Samsom admitted the party had taken a major drubbing but said: ‘We will keep fighting for a stronger and more social Netherlands. We are a party of fighters and we will carry on fighting…We have lost but we have not been beaten.’
In Rotterdam, local party Leefbaar Nederland became the biggest party, as support for the PvdA crumbled. However, it will be difficult for the party, originally founded by Pim Fortuyn, to form a coalition, commentators said.
The Socialist Party also gained considerable support across the country, increasing its share of the vote from 3.8% to 6.5%.
The minor religious parties ChristenUnie and SGP also grew. ChristenUnie is now the biggest party in Zwolle. In Vlissingen, voters picked the first ever female councillor for the fundamentalist SGP.
The Christian Democrats also managed to keep their share of the vote at around 14%. The party is traditionally strong in more rural areas, where its vote held up.
Geert Wilder’s anti-immigration PVV, which only fielded candidates in Almere and The Hague, lost support in both cities but remained the biggest party in Almere.
Wilders caused a furore earlier in the evening when he led his supporters in an anti-Moroccan chant.
The Telegraaf’s politicial correspondent Paul Jansen said Wilder’s behaviour has seriously overstepped the bounds of decency. ‘I think it is scandalous’, Jansen said.
Prime minister Mark Rutte said Wilders’ action left ‘a nasty taste’ in his mouth. ‘In particular the way he said “we’ll take care of it”,’ Rutte told reporters.