Liberal Parties Look for Allies in Netherlands

Mark Rutte needs at least three parties to form another government.

Giuseppe Conte Mark Rutte
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is received by his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, in The Hague, July 10, 2020 (Palazzo Chigi)

Talks to form a coalition government are underway in the Netherlands, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte won the election on Wednesday but fell short of an overall majority.

Four parties will be needed to form a government. Rutte’s right-liberal VVD (of which I am a member) and Trade Minister Sigrid Kaag’s left-liberal D66 would be needed in almost any combination. The two have 58 seats. 76 are needed for majority.

Possible coalitions

76 seats are needed for a majority

VVD and D66 have governed with the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Christian Union since 2017.

The four parties still have a majority in the lower house, but D66 would prefer to swap the Christian Union, which is economically progressive but socially conservative, for the center-left Labor Party or Greens.

Labor and the Greens, however, have made a pact, and two left-wing parties would be too much for Rutte.

He argued on Monday for exploring a coalition with JA21, a new right-wing party that could give VVD, D66 and CDA a majority in both houses of parliament.

That’s unappealing to D66. JA21 holds conservative views on immigration, opposes meeting the emissions-cutting goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and supports a referendum about giving up the euro. But Rutte needs to signal to conservative voters that he is at least exploring the possibility of a center-right government.

He has ruled out deals with the far-right Freedom Party and Forum for Democracy.

Similarly, D66 needs to explore options with the left first if it is to eventually agree to a continuation of the coalition with the Christian Union.

Other options

Other options include a deal with Volt, a European federalist party that won three seats, and the far-left Socialists, who have not ruled out being the only left-wing party in a coalition. Neither has governed before.

Neither could give VDD, D66 and CDA a Senate majority, but the coalition with the Christian Union didn’t have a majority in the upper chamber either and was still able to pass legislation by making deals with opposition parties on a case-by-case basis.