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    Far-Right to Battle Conservatives in Dutch Parliamentary Elections on Wednesday

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    The candidates in the Dutch parliamentary elections scheduled for Wednesday will compete for 150 seats in the House of Representatives of the Dutch parliament, with ruling People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) as two main contestants.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The vote in the Netherlands will come before spring presidential elections in France and fall parliamentary elections in Germany, with any and all of them capable of considerably changing the political landscape in Europe.

    Coalition unavoidable

    While the population of the Netherlands is roughly 17 million people, it has 28 parties hoping to win seats in the parliament’s lower chamber. A proportional representation system allows even the smallest parties to play a certain role in the parliament.

    The latest polls show VVD and PVV going neck and neck, with VVD enjoying a small advantage.

    Prime Minister Mark Rutte's liberal-conservative VVD is now looking to gain 18 percent of votes in Wednesday's election and gain 27 of 150 parliamentary seats, while PVV has the support of 16 percent of the electorate, translating into 24 seats, the Maurice de Hond polling agency said Monday.

    None of the parties is likely to get the 76 seats required for majority so whoever comes first will still have to form a coalition. Rutte has better chances of partnering up with other parties, while PVV’s leader Geert Wilders, may have a problem with that.

    VVD has ruled out collaborating with Wilders and a number of mainstream players are likely to follow suit.

    The current government is a coalition of VVD and center-left Labour Party. This is the second VVD cabinet, formed in 2012, after PVV, which backed Rutte's first minority government in the House of Representatives, withdrew its support over austerity measures.

    Turkey argument fuels campaign

    The candidates have touched upon healthcare and economy, the cornerstones of any campaign, but they have also had to address migration and terrorism threat.

    Wilders, often called "Dutch Donald Trump" by the media because of his harsh immigration stance similar to that of the US president, has proposed radical measures to counter threat from Islamist terror groups, such as banning Koran, barring entry to immigrants from Muslim countries and closing mosques.

    Rutte has been a little mellower and more indiscriminate in his approach to the migration problem. In January, the prime minister suggested that the people who do not want to adopt Dutch values should leave.

    In the last days before the election, a diplomatic argument with Ankara surfaced as a new talking point for candidates.

    On Saturday, Dutch authorities refused to let Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu's plane land in the country due to alleged security concerns. The authorities also prevented Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam and had police escort her to Germany. Both ministers had planned to hold a Turkish expat rally at the consulate building in the run up to Turkey's April constitutional referendum. The move sparked a diplomatic standoff, with Turkey promising sanctions and retaliatory measures while barring the Dutch ambassador from returning to Turkey.

    On Monday, Ankara announced its decision to halt all high-level political discussions with the Netherlands.

    Turkish politicians have been attempting to hold meetings with expats in Europe in the run-up to referendum on changes to the Turkish constitution. Several such rallies have been canceled in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.

    According to Director of the EU Political Integration Center at the Institute for European Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Wilders stands to win more than Rutte in the situation with a diplomatic row.

    "The scandal with Turkey has broken out at a very unfortunate time because the anti-government mood of the Turkish diaspora plays into Wilders’ plans. That means, it is inopportune for the ruling party," Lyudmila Babynina told Sputnik.

    According to Financial Times newspaper, on Monday, Rutte denied adjusting his political stance to shift closer to far-right Wilders. However, the prime minister’s handling of the situation appears to have given his approval rating some boost.

    On Sunday, Rutte demanded an apology from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the latter’s scathing criticism of the Netherlands in his public speech on Saturday.

    Nexit?

    The membership of the European Union is another topic on which the two chief contenders differ. Wilders suggested that he would like to see the Netherlands leave the bloc, an event which has already received its own media moniker ‘Nexit,’ whereas Rutte backs staying part of the union.

    Babynina stressed that there are staunch eurosceptics in the Netherlands, but it does not mean that it is ready to leave.

    "There is dissatisfaction with certain aspects and events in the framework of the European Union, but the polls show that overall the eurosceptics do not make up the majority among the Dutch," the expert said.

    According to Babynina, Nexit was not very likely, "even impossible, because for that scenario to become reality, the government would have to be formed by one party, the party of Geert Wilders, but there will definitely not be a government like this."

    Related:

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    Dutch Entry Denial for Turkish Officials Violates EU Values - Turkish Minister
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    parliamentary elections, Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), Dutch People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Netherlands
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