Big Dutch cities go for 'broad coalitions' following fragmented council votes


In both Rotterdam and The Hague, where populist parties topped the results in last month's local elections, local leaders are pinning their hopes on broad coalitions to form new city administrations. In Amsterdam and Utrecht, the left-wing greens have the upper hand while Eindhoven is split along clear left-right lines. Here's a summary of the coalition negotiations in the five big cities so far. Rotterdam In Rotterdam, populist party Leefbaar Rotterdam, wants to set up a 'broad coalition' including the VVD, D66, GroenLinks and Labour. Such an alliance would control 31 of the 45 seats on the city council and would 'do justice' to the election results, according to Leefbaar leader Joost Eerdemans. However, the Labour party has already said it will not join an alliance involving Leefbaar, partly because of its links with Thierry Baudet's Forum for Democracy. D66 has also said the link between Leefbaar and FvD makes it tricky to work together. FvD supported Leefbaar during the election campaign. D66, the CDA and Leefbaar form the outgoing Rotterdam coalition. The Hague In The Hague, the surprise win by populist Groep de Mos, founded by former PVV parliamentarian Richard de Mos has muddied the waters considerably. De Mos has appointed Hans Wiegel, a VVD stalwart, to try to put a coalition together and Wiegel has also said he will go for a broad alliance involving De Mos, the VVD, D66 and GroenLinks. GroenLinks has already said such an alliance is unlikely because of the right-wing bias. The Hague's current coalition is a five party group made up of D66, PvdA, Haagse Stadspartij, VVD and CDA. Amsterdam Amsterdam’s GroenLinks leader Rutger Groot Wassink is pinning his hopes on a coalition with D66, Labour and the Socialists. While GroenLinks was the big winner in last Wednesday’s vote, the other three parties all lost a considerable number of seats. Nevertheless, Groot Wassink told the paper he did not consider this to be a problem. ‘A vote for a party which lost is as valuable as one for a party that won,’ he said. The pro-animal PvdD, which like the Socialists has three seats on the city council, is not invited for the formation talks because of differences about tackling inequality, Groot Wassink said. Amsterdam has been ruled by a coalition of the VVD, D66 and the SP for the past four years. Utrecht Like Amsterdam, GroenLinks overtook D66 to become the biggest party and has also called for an alliance with D66, Labour and the SP. While Labour and the SP have already said they are happy to join such a coalition, local D66 leader Klaas Verschuure had said he favours the VVD ahead of Labour and the SP. Utrecht is currently run by a four party coalition: D66, GroenLinks, VVD and SP. Eindhoven In Eindhoven the VVD and GroenLinks both emerged from the vote with the same number of seats and both have appointed their own coalition negotiators. But the VVD has already said it is prepared to work with the left-wing greens, possibly in combination with D66 or the Christian Democrats. Eindhoven's current administration is a combination of the PvdA, D66, SP and GroenLinks.  More >



Vote for a woman campaign has an effect

A campaign to encourage people to vote for women during last week's local elections appears to have had an effect, according to research published by Trouw on Thursday. The paper says that in the 70 local authority areas it has studied, at least 75 women got a seat on the council by virtue of preference votes. In Amsterdam and Heerhugowaard women now account for half of the council make-up while in Heerenveen women are in the majority. Four years ago, 28% of local councillors were female but that has now risen to 34%, Trouw said. Supporters of the Liberal democratic party D66, the Socialist Party and GroenLinks were most likely to vote for a woman. An analysis of the candidate lists by broadcaster NOS ahead of the elections showed just three in 10 candidates were female.   More >




Surprise win for Groep De Mos in The Hague

Former PVV MP Richard de Mos sprung an upset in The Hague's municipal elections by leading his independent party to victory in what was expected to be a close four-way contest. De Mos's group won nine of the 45 council seats with 16.8% of the vote, with the VVD claiming seven seats in second place on 13.8%. D66, which won the election last time, was reduced from eight seats to six. De Mos put his party's success down to what he termed 'ombudsmanpolitiek' – a pragmatic approach built on listening to voters' concerns, with the motto: 'No theme is too small.' 'Being a councillor isn't a well-paid job,' he told NOS on Wednesday. 'And I have given up a lot because I love this city. I think this is the finest city in the Netherlands.' The 41-year-old De Mos quit the PVV in 2012 after being deselected by Geert Wilders for that year's parliamentary elections, having been elected as an MP on the party's list two years earlier. He described the decision as a 'hammer blow', but started his own party to contest The Hague's council elections in 2014, as a direct rival to Wilders. The three seats won by Groep De Mos allowed D66 to edge out the PVV for top spot and deprive Wilders of the chance to form a coalition in the Netherlands' third city. It is likely that his party picked up votes this year from the PVV, which won just two seats after four years riven by internal conflict and the loss of a councillor who quit in protest at Wilders's 'fewer Moroccans' comments. Populist Though De Mos bills his policies as apolitical, they have a populist right-wing flavour, albeit of a more moderate variety than the PVV or Leefbaar Rotterdam. His party favours deregulation for small businesses, transport policies that encourage car use (De Mos wants to halt the extension of The Hague's paid parking zones) and referendums for major decisions. The party has a welfare-to-work agenda and says benefit claimants should be required to do voluntary work if they are capable. 'The state welfare system is a safety net, not a hammock,' he has said. A former teacher, De Mos wants to introduce stricter discipline in schools, with smartphones banned from classrooms and children required to address teachers with the formal 'u' form. Elderly care Until recently De Mos's party was also known as the 'Older People's Party of the Hague. It has pledged to introduce free public transport for over-65s and tackle poverty among the elderly so they can live at home for as long as possible. As a prospective MP De Mos was an outspoken climate change sceptic who derided supporters of renewable energy as 'flat earth thinkers' and 'alarmists'. Soon after being elected he was found to have exaggerated his online CV by describing himself as a former director of the school where he previously worked. De Mos apologised for the error and corrected his details. His party now faces a challenge to build a coalition in the wake of a fragmented election result that has divided the 45 council seats between 15 parties. At least four parties will be needed in the new coalition, though this is not unprecedented – the city's last administration had five. Likely coalition partners include the VVD's seven councillors and the CDA, who have three. But De Mos will almost certainly have to bring in either D66 or GroenLinks to make up the majority. The city's other local party, the more left-leaning Haagse Stadspartij, is unlikely to be considered; neither are the PVV or any of the three Islamic parties which have one seat each. Election results Turnout in The Hague was 48.3%, below the 2014 level of 51.3%. Groep De Mos/ Hart voor Den Haag 9 (3) VVD 7 (4) D66 6 (8) GroenLinks 5 (2) CDA 3 (3) PvdA 3 (6) Haagse Stadspartij 2 (5) Partij van de Dieren 2 (1) PVV 2 (7) Islam Democraten 1 (2) ChristenUnie/SGP 1 (1) SP 1 (2) 50Plus 1 (0) Nida 1 (0) Partij van de Eenheid 1 (1)  More >


What the papers say about the elections

The local election results came in too late for the morning papers, but by press time the trend was already becoming clear - a rise in support for local parties and a rise in support for the left wing greens of GroenLinks. The big national parties have been dealt a blow by the ‘lokalo’s’ and they have reason to be worried, the Volkskrant writes. ‘Local councils have been playing a vital recruitment role in the VVD, CDA, PvdA, D66 and ChristenUnie for years. Half of the current MPs have a background in local politics and of the members of the cabinet 60% has experience as alderman or councillor,’ the paper points out. The joint membership of the national parties has shrunk some 20%, from 225,000 to 173,000 and the number of local politicians belonging to those parties is shrinking likewise. And that means the pool of potential national politicians is becoming smaller too, the Volkskrant says. Elsevier’s political commentator Carla Joosten thinks the rise of the local parties is ‘not something to be sad about’ and nor is the ‘fragmentation of the local political landscape’. Strengthens ‘The fact that a local party such as Burgerbelangen in Enschede wins eight seats in one go strengthens local politics,’ she says. The fact that local councils will be made up of many different parties is something that will work itself out, Joosten says. ‘Making compromises is a centuries old practice and the system hasn’t shown signs of wear and tear yet.’ Trouw focuses on the great success of GroenLinks. ‘It’s official,’ the paper writes, ‘GroenLinks is now at the forefront of left-wing politics in the Netherlands.’ According to the paper GroenLinks did well not to become part of the right-wing cabinet last year and has ‘obviously touched a chord’ and pinched seats from the PvdA (which did form an alliance with the right), SP and D66. ‘GroenLinks is ‘little links’ no longer’, the paper writes. Humility The NRC's Tom-Jan Meeus says the local election results are 'a lesson in humility for all professional politicians and those who think they know something about politics'. The 'new right' described by Meeus as less radical and willing to take government responsibility, is leaving the PVV behind he points out. 'But it will have to draw a lesson from the left in the 1960s and 1970s when it squandered its chances through infighting and became a pawn for the parties in the middle,' he says. In the same paper Joris Luyendijk says the fragmentation of society is mirrored by the election outcome but not by the Dutch news media. 'So how does a public broadcaster react when three parties for Dutch citizens with a migration background triumph in the elections?,' he asks. White media The answer according to Luyendijk, who is referring to Wednesday's broadcast on the results, is: not at all. The broadcaster is dominated by white, highly skilled people as are the papers whose main focus was on the changing power dynamics between D66 and GroenLinks, he says. 'When the white protest parties win people fall over themselves to stress that 'these signals should be picked up',' Luyendijk writes. 'And now? Denk had been trending on Twitter all evening but it took over an hour before any of the four (!) political commentators seated at the NOS table thought to ask the question of what it meant that Denk in Rotterdam had become bigger than the PVV.' 'Indirectly and undoubtedly completely inadvertently this broadcast gave the best explanation of why Denk, Nida and Bij1 have been succesfull,' Luyendijk said.  More >