The Dutch political climate shifted to the right on Wednesday, with major gains for Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV party and the VVD Liberals in the general election.
By the early hours of Thursday morning, the right-wing Liberals had inched one seat ahead of Labour (PvdA) on 31 seats – a gain of nine for the VVD and a loss of three for the PvdA.
Support for the Christian Democrats was slashed from 41 to 21, leading to the immediate resignation of party leader and outgoing prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
VVD leader Mark Rutte told a cheering crowd of supporters that it was ‘a fantastic evening’.
‘We are the party for everyone who wants to make something of their lives,’ Rutte said, before congratulating first Geert Wilders’ PVV and then the other winning parties.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Job Cohen, former mayor of Amsterdam, told supporters he would do all he could to make sure the Netherlands continues to be a social and decent country.
The results mean the three right-wing parties could form a narrow majority of 76 in the 150 seat parliament.
Outgoing prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende resigned as leader of the Christian Democrats following the halving of CDA support.
In an emotional address on Wednesday night, Balkenende thanked party workers and supporters for the trust they have shown him in his eight years as prime minister.
Wednesday’s results are ‘very, very disappointing’ and the results are ‘clear’, he said. ‘I have to take responsibility,’ he said.
A jubilant PVV leader Geert Wilders told Nos tv he hopes the party will be able to join a coalition government. ‘We are the big winner and they cannot ignore us. We want to be taken seriously,’ he said.
It now remains to be seen where Rutte’s coalition preference lies. During the campaign he refused to rule out an alliance with the PVV but criticised the party for being left on the economy.
At the same time, he repeatedly emphasised the wide differences between the VVD and Labour, which governed together from the late 1990ss to 2002 alongside the Liberal democrats D66 in the ‘purple coalition’,
But during the later stages of the campaign, Rutte said he wanted to have a new coalition in place by July 1.
Muslim groups told news agency ANP they are concerned about the rise of the PVV. ‘We respect this democratic outcome but throwing mud at a particular group does not contribute to a harmonious society,’ Driss El Boujoufi of the Moroccan Muslim organisation UMMON said.
The results after 97% have been counted:
VVD 31 (22) 20.06%
PvdA 30 (33) 20%
PVV 24 (9) 16%
CDA 21 (41) 14%
SP 15 (25) 10%
GroenLinks 10 (7) 6.6%
D66 10 (3) 6.6%
ChristenUnie 5 (6) 3.3%
SGP 2 (2) 1.3%
PvdD 2 (2) 1.3%
Rita Verdonk 0 (1)
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