Mark Rutte is on course for his fourth term as Prime Minister of the Netherlands, with his right-leaning Freedom party (VVD) due to increase its seats by three to 36 in this week’s general election. Rutte has held the position for a historic eleven years.
However, the biggest winner of the election was the the pro-EU liberal democrat D66 party, which looks set to take an additional eight seats to win a total of 27. The centre-right Christian Democrat party CDA, which also served in the last coalition and is led by former finance minister Wopke Hoekstra, is due to lose around five seats, falling to 14. Due to this poor performance, together the three parties will not have enough seats to form a majority and serve in a continuity coalition. Both parties were in Rutte’s previous coalition, which resigned in January over a scandal in which thousands of parents were falsely accused of childcare fraud. It is expected that coalition talks will take some time.
Rutte said late on Wednesday voters had given his party an “overwhelming vote of confidence”. He conceded that “not everything has gone well in the last 10 years” but said the key issue was how to “rebuild” the country after the coronavirus pandemic.
The far-right anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders is due to drop from second to third largest, losing three seats, to a total of 17. Wilders said he had “hoped for more than 17 seats” but pledged that his party’s “counter-voice” would be heard from the opposition benches.
Rutte has been a steady and modest leader, and despite criticism over his handling of the Covid crisis and the subsequent protests over the level of restrictions, the Dutch showed that above all they value stability.