Updated: Oct 20
By Tobias Pardoen
Edited by Sara Campeti & Mélanie Fourtanier
On 22 November 2023, the Netherlands will conduct elections for the House of Representatives. Rutte's announcement of his departure from politics marks the end of a thirteen-year era in which he led four cabinets. These upcoming elections signify the beginning of a new chapter in Dutch politics, offering new actors to step forward as alternatives. The lingering question is: What does the future era hold in store?
Leaders and Parties
In the upcoming elections, twenty-six political parties will be in the running. Based on current polling data, it appears that there is a three-way competition among the VVD (Liberals), Nieuw Sociaal Contract (New Social Contract) and the joint candidacy of PvdA and GroenLinks (Labour Party and Green Left).
Within the VVD party, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius faces the challenging task of filling Mark Rutte's shoes. She served as the Minister of Justice and Security in Rutte's last cabinet.
Based on the VVD party program and her public statements, migration, security, and freedom seem to become the primary topics for her and her party in the upcoming elections. Yeşilgöz desires a country ''with minimal government intervention''.
Pieter Omtzigt, the leader and founder of Nieuw Sociaal Contract, is a well-known figure in Dutch politics for his role in uncovering the Dutch childcare benefit scandal.
Although the official electoral standpoints remain unknown, the party classifies as a socially conservative party with a foundation in Christian democratic principles. The party believes that due to past neoliberal policies, essential Dutch sectors are struggling, and the government needs to step up and make changes with courage.
The leader of the left-leaning party association between PvdA and GroenLinks, Frans Timmermans, transitioned from his former role as Vice President of the European Commission with the ambition of becoming the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands. The party primarily underscores tackling climate change, emphasising its belief in the interconnection of social and climate issues.
Across all the parties, there is a common desire for change. Given the lowest level of trust in politics in a decade and numerous politicians announcing their departure from politics, there is a unanimous consensus among political parties on the necessity of political change.
The relationships between citizens and politics should take centre stage, rather than the relationships within politics itself.
Themes and Political Approaches
Livelihood Security is a multifaceted concern that extends beyond poverty. It also encompasses challenges related to housing market crises and healthcare. The VVD advocates for economic security by promoting reduced taxes and higher wages. They emphasise the importance of hard work in achieving financial stability.
Their focus includes investments in independent healthcare services and housing, all without incurring additional government spending. PvdA/GroenLinks takes a different path, advocating for an expanded government role.
It involves increasing welfare benefits, improving pension conditions, and providing more flexible debt repayment rules. Their approach extends to healthcare and housing, emphasising substantial government investment to ensure affordability and availability.
Nieuw Sociaal Contract seeks a middle-ground solution, underscoring the government's responsibility in critical sectors while minimising intervention elsewhere. This approach is anchored in stringent financial policies and tax system reforms, offering a more balanced perspective.
The parties share a common goal of achieving a climate-neutral Netherlands, yet their strategies diverge. The VVD places its faith in the business sector, suggesting that innovation from citizens and entrepreneurs will lead the way to a greener economy.
They believe this approach will eliminate the need for tax increases on activities like driving or flying, positioning the government as a supporting actor in the transition.
PvdA/GroenLinks takes a more proactive stance, calling for government investments in clean energy innovation and encouraging responsible practices among companies and individuals contributing to pollution. Their approach holds heavy polluters accountable for finding solutions.
Nieuw Sociaal Contract strikes a balance between environmental concerns and economic realities. They advocate for increased contributions from the wealthy while emphasising government support for nuclear energy and the transition for less well-off individuals.
Immigration and asylum represent the final significant topics in the elections, and once again, they elicit differing viewpoints. The VVD seeks to make the Netherlands less attractive to outsiders, particularly those from outside Europe, by implementing strict limits on immigration.
Nieuw Sociaal Contract takes a more stringent approach, proposing restrictions on all forms of migration, including asylum, study, and work-related migration.
PvdA/GroenLinks, conversely, advocates for building more support for refugee reception and expediting procedures. They oppose the idea of a migration cap, recognising the complexities of immigration issues and calling for more comprehensive solutions.
The Post-Rutte Era
The approaching Dutch elections mark the transition from the era of Mark Rutte to a new chapter in Dutch politics. The competitive landscape reflects a shared thirst for change and a distinct emphasis on addressing livelihood security, climate action, and asylum policy reform, illustrating the desire for a revamped political landscape.
These elections seem to provide an opportunity to do so. With each political party unveiling its proposed solutions, the pivotal question remains: who will emerge as the torchbearer of this new era? Ultimately, the Dutch electorate will wield the deciding power on 22 November 2023.
Sources: Basisdocument Nieuw Sociaal Contract, CBS, Euronews, European Commission, Groenlinks/PvdA partijprogramma, Ipsos, Kiesraad, Peilingwijzer, VVD partijprogramma.
Written by Tobias Pardoen