The Dutch went to the polls today, and exit polls indicate that the center-right VVD will win 41 seats, just ahead Labour who are expected to win 40. Although the election comes during an important time in euro crisis negotiations it looks like euroscepticism has been rejected, with Geert Wilders’ xenophobic and eurosceptic Party For Freedom having lost seats.
Both the VVD and the Labour party must now begin coalition negotiations, 76 seats are needed to form a majority government. For Labour the obvious coalition partners would be the anti-bailout Socialists, while the VVD will probably turn to their old coalition partners, the Christian Democrats. Both major parties view government spending as the solution to budget deficits, though the VVD is focused on infrastructure spending and Labour has been arguing for job creation programs.
Whatever coalition gets put together it will not be very strong, as both the VVD and Labour will need a substantial amount of support from smaller parties in order to reach the 76 seats required for a majority. The last Dutch government fell apart in large part due to unmanageable differences that arose during negotiations on austerity measures, something the larger parties will not want to see again.
Those who were hoping for a great eurosceptic pushback or some sort of referendum on the euro will be disappointed with these results and the German Federal Constitutional Court ruling earlier today. While the euro crisis has been a concern to the Dutch they seem to have been largely unpersuaded by the arguments for abandoning the single currency or leaving the European Union.
While many people from northern Europe have been expressing their exasperation with the behavior of countries like Greece this has yet to translate into tangible electoral successes. This might well be because many who would prefer a break from the European Union are put off by some of the unsettling rhetoric of eurosceptics. Even if there were a large surge of euroscepticism in Europe the electoral systems of most countries make any practical policy steps in the direction of serious reform of relationships with the European Union nearly impossible.