Local elections 2014

Yesterday local elections were held, and the results for the coalition parties are disastrous. In itself that’s nothing new — coalition partners generally lose seats in elections, but there are a few twists.

Broadly speaking, the PvdA lost disastrously, and the VVD rather less so. D66 was the big winner, followed by the SP and small christian CU and SGP. The CDA lost seats but not nearly as many as was predicted.

The big cities

From the 1940s on the PvdA dominated the big cities, always being the largest party and always being in the ruling coalition. In 2010 they lost Utrecht to GL, narrowly held on to Den Haag in the face of Wilders’s PVV, and drew with Rotterdam local right-wing party LR. It rather easily held on to Amsterdam.

No more. In Amsterdam D66 upstaged the social-democrats in a big way (see below), and the Democrats became by far the largest party. In Rotterdam the PvdA lost, but LR held on to its 14 seats, giving it the right of initiative in coalition negotiations.

Den Haag has an interesting twist: it was expected that Wilders’s PVV would trounce the PvdA this time, and that happened, but when all votes were counted it was, again, D66 that narrowly surpassed the PVV.

In 2010 Wilders decided to run only in Den Haag and Almere, and this year he did the same. Although his PVV became the largest party in Almere and remained in second place in Den Haag, he lost votes and seats in both. The Dutch voters don’t like shouting, apparently.

Since the Democrats also ousted GL as largest party in Utrecht they can now start the negotiations in three of the four big cities, which will do wonders for their new profile as the big-city party.

The constructive opposition

The really interesting twist concerns the so-called “constructive opposition.” Although VVD and PvdA hold a majority in the second chamber of parliament, they don’t in the Senate. After a complicated set of negotiations they are now supported by D66, CU, and SGP, the constructive opposition. Although not in government, these three parties have influence on government policy and score the occasional success.

It is an accepted fact that coalition parties lose in secondary elections, and thus the PvdA’s and VVD’s losses are easily explained. However, the constructive opposition won — D66 in a big way; the christian parties on a rather smaller scale, but still appreciably. So either the voters don’t count Democrats and christians as coalition partners, or they actively like these parties supporting government in its time of need. My money is on the first option.

Speaking of the SGP, for the first time in its nearly 100-year history a woman won an SGP seat. Generally, the SGP is against women in political office because Bible, but this point of view was nixed by the judiciary, and in the Zeeland town of Vlissingen it couldn’t find a male leader and settled for a woman. She won the SGP’s single seat there. The times they are a-changing.


Finally some words on Amsterdam. Here are the results (one or two seats may still flip):

Party 2014 ch 2010
D66 14 +7 7
PvdA 10 -5 15
VVD 6 -2 8
SP 6 +3 3
GL 6 -1 7
CDA 1 -1 2
PvdD 1 +1 0
PvdO 1 +1 0
Others 0 -2 2

(The PvdO is one of the three parties for the elderly that ran.)

D66 has the initiative in the coalition negotiations, and it is possible for the Democrats to form a coalition without the PvdA, either over right (D66+VVD+GL) or over left (D66+SP+GL). Still, the prospect of a Labourless coalition was notably absent from the Democrats’ campaigning, and the first thing local party leader Paternotte did after the elections is remark how much in common D66 and PvdA have when it comes to education. So it seems the Democrats don’t want to change too much. That’s a pity. From a general perspective it would be healthy for both the city and the party if the PvdA had a spell in opposition.

An underappreciated story is the small parties that didn’t win seats. Every election, about 2-5% of the voters vote for a party that does not win any seats, and these votes are wasted. In the 2010 local Amsterdam elections this was 5%. In contrast, yesterday no less than 14% voted for very small parties, and that is a huge number. This surely says something about disaffection with the political system, but right now it’s being completely ignored by the mainstream press. These small parties are an eclectic batch of elderlies, Pirates, several flavours of populists, leftist fringe groups, and immigrant parties.

Anway, I don’t expect too much change in Amsterdam. We’ll likely head for a D66+PvdA+? coalition, since the Democrats have less experience than the PvdA in ruling, and will want another party to serve as a buffer between them and Labour. The third party will likely be the VVD, or maybe GL.

<— Preliminary election results | Wilders makes a mistake PVV in meltdown —>

This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.

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