It’s a little after 9.45pm in the Netherlands (7.45am in Melbourne), and polls closed half an hour ago in the Dutch election (see yesterday’s preview here). The BBC reports an exit poll showing prime minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD, liberal but leaning rather to the right) with a comfortable lead, projected to win 31 seats. (It’s been added to the Wikipedia page, but I can’t find anything at Ipsos’s own site.)
It puts the next three parties – the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), the Christian Democrats and the “liberal party”, by which I presume it means D66 (left-leaning liberals) – all on about 19 seats. The Greens are next on 16 and the Socialist Party on 14. There are 150 seats in the lower house and it’s strictly proportional, so just take two-thirds of a projected seat total to get an estimated percentage.
That’s significantly better for VVD and worse for PVV than the opinion polls had been predicting. But it’s just one poll, so we’d better wait to get some proper results. As reader Malcolm Baalman kindly pointed out (his preview is here), the Dutch electoral commission also has an English-language version of its website, although there’s nothing much on it as yet.
Turnout is reported to be high, perhaps as much as 80%.
10.15pm Dutch time
You can read more about the exit poll numbers at the Guardian’s live feed. Turnout there is reported at 82%, up from 74.6% in 2012. Perhaps a democratic electoral system would do more for participation here than compulsory voting.
If the exit poll is right, it would mean the four large mainstream parties – VVD, the Christian Democrats, D66 and Labour – would have 78 seats between them, a clear majority. There’s not much doubt that they’d manage to put together some sort of coalition. Labour’s vote is so low (nine seats, about 6%) that Rutte could even dispense with them and rely on some minor parties instead.
Among other interesting features, the poll shows the Animals Party winning five seats, up from two in the old parliament.
10.35pm Dutch time
French readers can also get a good live feed on the results from Le Monde. Its reporter, Philippe Ricard, says Rutte “knew how to profit from the diplomatic crisis with Turkey, in showing himself firm and cutting the grass from under Wilders’s feet.” Nicely put. He also suggests (I think correctly) that far from Wilders benefiting from a Trump or Brexit effect, “the two events worried the Dutch.”
10.55pm (all times Dutch; ten hours behind eastern Australia)
Still no sign of real figures, but assuming the exit poll is about right (and they do have a very good record) it’s interesting that the performance of VVD and PVV is the only real surprise as compared to the last week or two of opinion polls. It suggests that the Turkish imbroglio had a real impact – it worked well for Rutte because he could appeal to anti-Turkish sentiment without doing anything that was anti-Muslim, just standing up for democracy.
There’s a lot of comment around on how badly Labour has done (nine seats, down from 38) and how successful the Greens have been (16 seats, up from four). That’s entirely true, but it’s completely in line with what the polls have been saying. Participation in government in time of austerity clearly doesn’t help centre-left parties, as the Liberal Democrats in Britain discovered.
On the other hand, it’s hard to say there’s been an overall shift to the left. In addition to the Greens, the big winners are D66 (up seven) and the Christian Democrats (up six), both very much in the centre – progressive on social policy but in the mainstream economically.
There are now some real numbers available, here. They’re very small (and they’re in Dutch), but with ten municipalities reporting (out of 388), VVD leads with 23.1%, followed by the Christian Democrats on 16.4%, the PVV 12.5%, D66 10.8% and the Socialists 9.5%. Small rural municipalities tend to report first, so that will overstate the Christian Democrats and understate D66 and the Greens; with that caveat, it seems broadly in line with the exit poll.
Multiply percentages by one and a half to get a good estimate of seats.
With 56 out of 388 municipalities counted, we now have VVD on 17.7%, D66 13.5%, Green Left 12.2%, Christian Democrats 11.0% and PVV 10.5%. They’re also giving projected numbers of seats, which don’t match the vote percentages and may therefore be projections based on where the votes are coming from. On that basis VVD, D66 and the Christian Democrats have 70 seats between them, which is getting tantalisingly close to a majority.
The Guardian quotes Rutte in his victory speech saying “I have had lots of European colleagues on the line. This is an evening where the Netherlands, after Brexit and Trump, said: ‘That’s enough of the wrong sort of populism.'”
With 121 municipalities in, the numbers now line up a bit better with the seat projections. VVD 20.4% and 32 seats, Christian Dems 12.9% and 21, PVV 12.1% and 20, D66 11.9% and 17, Greens 9.4% and 15.
About half way there (195 reporting), and it’s VVD still with a commanding lead, 20.4% and 32 seats, ahead of Christian Dems 12.3% (20), PVV 12.6% (19), D66 12.2% (18), Greens 9.5% (14), Socialists 8.9% (14). Looking pretty good for the exit poll.
It’s a fully proportional system, so the numbers of votes and numbers of seats must eventually come out in the same order. At the moment they’re still a bit out of alignment, but I don’t know which is more likely to be right. It won’t make a difference to the big picture, where we’re most probably looking at a VVD/Christian Dem/D66 government, with support from either Labour or some minor parties (or possibly the Greens). I can’t see anyone trying to form a coalition without Rutte.
2.15am (Dutch time, remember – it’s 12.15pm in Melbourne)
It’s not a total write-off for Geert Wilders, in that it looks as if he’ll at least have the bragging rights for holding onto second place: with about two-thirds counted his PVV is sitting on 12.9%, just ahead of the Christian Democrats on 12.6%. (That looks like 19 seats each for them, as also for D66, who’ve got 11.9%.) He’ll almost certainly become leader of the opposition. But in other respects it’s a pretty awful performance, down on his poll results (which were sitting around 21 or 22 seats), and well short of his 2010 peak of 15.4% and 24 seats.
If only the United States had the Dutch voting system.
Not much is going to change from there – it’s about 85% counted. The VVD is still on track for 32 seats, with PVV, Christian Democrats and D66 all on 19, just as the exit poll said. The Greens and the Socialists are fighting for fifth place, and Labour is a distant seventh with 5.7% and nine seats.
Behind the majors, another six parties are winning seats. Christian Union with six, the pensioners (50+) with four and Denk, an anti-racism party, with three would seem possible coalition partners if needed.
3.45am (1.45pm in eastern Australia)
I’m going to call it a day at that point. With more than 90% of results in, the numbers are now pretty stable. Although they’ve lost nine seats, it’s a triumph for the governing VVD: they’ve exceeded expectations and finished well in front of their rivals. They’re 8% clear of Wilders’s PVV, with only a percentage point separating the second and fourth placegetters.
It will take a few rounds of negotiations to form a new government, but it’s most likely to be based on VVD, the Christian Dems and the left-liberals, D66. Between them they look to be six seats short of a majority, so there are a number of options for them – Labour (nine seats) and the Christian Union (six) seem the most plausible. The Greens, who did well with 15 seats, may also be in the mix.
Let’s not name any names, but the pundits who told us that Wilders was in line to be prime minister and that anti-Muslim populism was the wave of the future are now looking a bit silly.
Next stop, France!