Europe’s Latest Election Provides Bellwether for Dutch Influence

  • Dutch Prime Minister to meet France’s Macron on Wednesday
  • Ruling coalition has one-seat majority in Dutch parliament

Local elections in the Netherlands on Wednesday will test the popularity of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government, underscoring his coalition’s tenuous hold on power as he pushes back against French plans to reform the euro area.

Rutte’s liberal VVD party, D66 and the CDA Christian Democrats, are expected to lose support in the elections held in 335 municipalities, according to the latest poll published by Peil.nl on Sunday. Together with its Christian Union junior partner, the coalition holds a one-seat majority in the Dutch lower house of parliament.

Mark Rutte

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

To read about Northern resistance to euro reforms, click here

“Everyone in The Hague will be focused on the trends,” Kees Aarts, a professor in political science at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, said in an interview. “Are parties going up or down compared with last year’s general election or the 2014 local elections?”

On Wednesday, Rutte will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, who, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is seeking to push through a bold agenda aimed at strengthening the euro area. The Dutch joined seven other northern countries this month in tamping down expectations. A poor showing by Rutte could further limit his political room to maneuver.

Protest Voters

Political experts warn that the outcome of the these elections don’t necessarily translate to results in parliament since these ballots include local parties not affiliated with national groups. But some look to the results as a bellwether for broader party support.

“Angry’’ or so-called protest voters will likely play a key role on Wednesday, while many more moderate voters won’t head for the voting booths, Andre Krouwel, an associate professor in political science at Amsterdam’s VU University, said by phone.

A case in point is FvD, or Forum for Democracy, a right-wing anti-EU and anti-establishment party led by Thierry Baudet, which entered parliament last year with two seats. Polls indicate the party could pick up 9 to 16 seats.

In the March 2017 general election, Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam, anti-European Union Freedom Party PVV came in second with 20 of the 150 seats in parliament. In Wednesday’s local elections, the Freedom Party is only on voting lists in 30 municipalities, including Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht -- the three largest cities in the country after Amsterdam, where Wilders is not on the ballot.

— With assistance by Wout Vergauwen

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