Victory for the centre in Dutch elections

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 The centre-right VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has emerged as winner of yesterday’s closely contested elections in the Netherlands. The centre-left Labour Party of Diedrik Samsom is in second place.

Both parties have taken even more seats than opinion polls had indicated, with the VVD winning 41 seats and Labour 39. The Socialist Party had enjoyed strong support early in the campaign, but this gradually evaporated and the SP won 15 seats, the same as its current total.

One of the big surprises was a 43 percent drop in support for Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party. Having campaigned on an anti-European ticket, the party saw its share of seats fall from 24 to 15. The GreenLeft party also lost heavily, taking just 3 seats compared to their current 10.

Analysts say the strong showing of the VVD and Labour shows that voters want a return to the centre and an end to fringe politics. The results are also being seen as a reinforcement of Dutch support for Europe, with both parties broadly pro-EU.

'Forced marriage'
A coalition between the two parties would have a clear majority in the 150-seat parliament and is being seen as almost inevitable. Writing in the business daily Het Financieele Dagblad, political scientist Paul Schnabel said the two parties had become so big, “that neither can form a majority cabinet with other parties. That also makes it difficult because they are condemned to each other. A forced marriage, which usually has little blessing."

Such a coalition would not, however, command a majority in the Upper House of the Dutch parliament and it is probable that a third or even fourth party will take part in the eventual government. During the campaign, Rutte stressed the desirability of forming a coalition as quickly as possible and talks are expected to begin almost immediately.