Dina Pardijs writes: In the Netherlands, the system of direct representation and the increasingly split vote means that election night is only the start of the process of forming a government. A record number of parties have signed up for the elections this year, revealing an epidemic of identity politics: voters can choose between the entrepreneur party, the 50 Plus party, the non-voter party, a party for minorities, and three different parties from the group that launched the Ukraine referendum. Forming a coalition government is the norm in the Netherlands, but in most years these consist of two or three parties. The way the polls look at the moment, a government will likely have to comprise four or even five parties.
The formation is like the Dutch version of a cricket world cup: a drawn-out, mildly suspenseful quadrennial event, that you can tune in and out of without missing too much.
Party leaders start discussing coalitions, divide up ministries and policy points, and give cryptic messages to the journalists enjoying the sunshine on the Binnenhof. In 2010, negotiators went back and forth over five possible coalitions across the political spectrum through June, July, August, and September. All of which means that attaining power in the Dutch system requires a huge amount of compromise.
If the PVV wins the most votes, Geert Wilders would start off this process. But it seems highly unlikely that he will be able to form a government. For one, compromise is not his forte. Not only that, but most of the other major parties are staunchly opposed to entering a coalition with the PVV. One reason the 2010 formation process took 127 days was that the supporters of some parties protested their leaders even being in a negotiating room with the PVV. Party leaders have likely learned from this experience. They will also have learned that Wilders is not a reliable partner. In 2010 he agreed to give electoral support to a minority coalition, only for the government to collapse less than two years later when Wilders withdrew his support. [Continue reading…]