With around 90% of votes cast now counted, it’s now pretty clear what the new configuration of the Tweede Kamer will look like, barring a last minute shift of a seat or two. I’m going to give a quick reaction to each party’s results, and return here over the weekend with a post about what the next government might look like.
VVD: 35 seats (+2)
A couple of months ago polls had the VVD at over 40 seats, but this is still an outstanding result from a party which has been in government for a decade. No party has finished first in at four consecutive Tweede Kamer elections since well before the Second World War. Mark Rutte will undoubtedly continue as Prime Minister, and most likely break the record held by the late Ruud Lubbers (CDA) for longest sitting PM (1982-1994).
D66: 24 seats (+5)
Not quite the 27 seats that it looked like it could be at the start of the evening, but nevertheless this result equals the record set at 1994 election under the leadership of party co-founder Hans van Mierlo. Sigrid Kaag’s performance on the campaign trail was underrated by the polls, but it is highly likely that she gained a lot of support in the final days as undecided voters turned to her party as the most progressive challenge to the VVD.
PVV: 17 seats (-3)
Geert Wilders remains at the head of the largest party on the radical-right, but it was a flat result for him across the board. The VVD even outpolled the PVV in Wilders’ home province of Limburg. He will remain the largest opposition party with his relatively stable number of rusted-on supporters.
CDA: 15 seats (-5)
It’s fair to say that the CDA were bracing for some kind of loss given how poorly Wopke Hoekstra performed during the campaign, but this was probably a bit more than they were expecting. The party seems to be stuck in the role of junior partner to the VVD on the centre-right, and it may well take the retirement of Mark Rutte before the CDA can dream about returning to past glories.
SP: 9 seats (-5)
It shows just how bad this election was for traditional left-wing parties that the SP lost five seats but will still end up the largest party in this grouping (if only in votes rather than seats). The SP hasn’t gained seats at an election since the provincial elections of 2015, and have lost votes at the last four Tweede Kamer elections. While Marijnissen is a promising leader and will most likely continue for another term, the party will need to review its approach as little seems to be going their way at the moment.
PvdA: 9 seats (0)
It didn’t help the PvdA that their lead candidate Lodewijk Asscher left politics weeks before the election in the wake of the childcare benefits scandal. In hindsight, he may as well have stayed, given that the matter barely played a part in the campaign. Lilianne Ploumen didn’t make much of an impact either way, and suffered from being excluded from debates she would normally have been present at given the PvdA’s long history of being the largest party on the left (until 2017). Keeping their nine seats may feel like a disappointment in the context of the polls and the party’s expectations, but in the context of this election it’s by no means the worst outcome.
FvD: 8 seats (+6)
The biggest winner of the election ran the most eye-catching campaign. After a bout of infighting and an attempted coup within the party that left many wondering whether Thierry Baudet was done with politics, he threw caution to the wind and went on a tour of the country, appearing at rallies where he called for the lockdown to end. Let’s just say that following coronavirus restrictions was somewhat optional as far as Baudet was concerned: he didn’t wear a mask and regularly shook hands with supporters. Taking a leaf out of Donald Trump’s playbook, he downplayed the dangers of the virus and suggested that the upcoming election might be rigged against him. Most countries which have had to endure lengthy lockdowns will recognise the virus-sceptic, anti-lockdown activist – Baudet told them what they wanted to hear. The question will be whether he can keep these voters at the next election, when the pandemic will most likely be a somewhat distant memory.
GroenLinks: 7 seats (-7)
From the biggest winner to the biggest loser: the hype and razzle-dazzle around Jesse Klaver in 2017 which resulted in GroenLinks’ best Tweede Kamer result to date did not repeat itself in 2021 and the party lost more seats in a single Tweede Kamer election than ever before. While Klaver has said he wants to continue as leader, he will need to work out how to present the party as a serious competitor, rather than a place to park a protest vote to show dissatisfaction with a larger party on the left.
PvdD: 6 seats (+1)
A modest but welcome gain for the environmentalist/animal rights party, fighting its first Tweede Kamer election without founding leader Marianne Thieme. The PvdD is never really counted as part of the left because they feel out of the box a lot of the time and occasionally go against traditional left positions. Nevertheless, they continue to be a party that brings the surprises both in terms of policy and the support they manage to gather from unusual places.
ChristenUnie: 5 seats (0)
The small Christian parties have the most loyal supporter base, as evidenced by the fact that the ChristenUnie spent four years as the smallest party in a coalition where they undoubtedly had to support bills they weren’t exactly that keen on, and have come out as they went in. Whether they will continue for another term in a Rutte-cabinet is another question, but having successfully participated in two of the last four governments is an impressive result for a small party.
JA21: 4 seats (+4)
Well, well – look who’s back. It’s been a long while since Joost Eerdmans (former CDA member, former LPF MP, former OneNL co-founder, former Leefbaar Rotterdam leader and former FvD member) held a seat in the Tweede Kamer, but this time he’s at the head of JA21, formed with other disgruntled FvD members after some of Baudet’s antics in relation to offensive WhatsApp messages. The party is expected to sit quite closely to the FvD and PVV in terms of policy, but with fewer of the frequent provocations that Wilders and Baudet engage in.
SGP: 3 seats (0)
What did I say about small Christian parties and loyal supporter bases? If there’s one constant in Dutch politics, it’s that the SGP will have 2 or 3 seats in the Tweede Kamer, and here we are again. Regardless of what you think of the SGP, they clearly represent a (small) portion of Dutch society and have done so for over a century, so they’ve become part of the political furniture.
Volt: 3 seats (+3)
While there are familiar faces in JA21, Volt’s debut in the Tweede Kamer was impressive given their lack of name recognition, both in terms of the party and its candidates. Nevertheless, the pan-European party, seen an alternative to the traditional left, made the most of their limited media opportunities and ran a solid campaign on social media.
Denk: 2 seats (-1)
A bizarre bout of infighting mid-term didn’t help this party led by former PvdA MPs; neither did some of their more provocative moments and perceived support for the regime of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Their supporter base is primarily voters with migrant backgrounds in the major cities, which is a fairly limited pool.
50Plus: 1 seat (-3)
Speaking of infighting: it’s a minor miracle that 50Plus made it back to the Tweede Kamer at all. They lost their popular leader Henk Krol midway through the term, then had a messy internal struggle last year when presumably they should have been focused on other matters. And then the lead candidate and number three on the ticket publicly accused each other of going against party policy with less than a fortnight to go before election day. Those 70,000 or so 50Plus voters who still stuck with the party despite all this probably deserve the award of most loyal voters of this election.
BIJ1: 1 seat (+1)
After a few attempts, former television presenter Sylvana Simons will enter the Tweede Kamer at the head of a party which is probably best described as intersectionalist. It seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination and has radical-left/anti-capitalist leanings in its social and economic policies.
BBB: 1 seat (+1)
The Boer Burger Beweging (Farmer and Citizen Movement) snuck into contention for a seat in the Tweede Kamer in the last week or so of the campaign when they started appearing in polls. Unashamedly representing the regional and rural areas of the Netherlands, this party is seen as part of the backlash against the last cabinet’s plans to tackle nitrogen run-off produced by farming and seek a reduction in the number of farm animals overall.
It’s going to be a fascinating few years, as always.