Dutch vote ends era of stability

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The Independent Online
THE NETHERLANDS yesterday began a postmortem to determine the cause of death of more than a decade of political stability as the centre- left coalition licked the wounds inflicted in a historic defeat, writes Sarah Lambert.

The Dutch electorate, worried by recession, immigration and the promised reform of the social infrastructure that has underpinned the country for nearly 20 years, turned out in force to vote decisively against the conservative Christian Democrat (CDA) and Labour (PvdA) coalition government and in favour of new issue-based parties or fringe groups on both extremes of the political spectrum. For the first time in 12 years a grouping of three or more parties will be needed to command a majority in parliament. 'Government in difficult times does not make you popular and we have been presented with the bill,' said Wim Kok, the Labour Finance Minister, tipped as the likely new prime minister.

Although the PvdA emerged as the largest party, the CDA/PvdA coalition together lost nearly one-third of their seats in the 150-strong lower house, taking only 34 and 37 seats respectively. The combination is still five short of an absolute majority. The balance of power is thus held by the conservative-leaning Liberal Party, which increased its representation from 22 seats to 31, and the progressive D66 group, which doubled its representation to take 24 seats. The Greens and other religious or far-left groupings account for 14 seats. The feared break-through of the extreme right, which had been predicted to carry off as many as eight seats, was contained. None the less, the so-called Central Democrats won two more seats for a total of three.

The PvdA is likely to find it difficult to work with the fiscally and politically conservative Liberals. Forming a workable coalition will not be easy and is likely to take several weeks.

(Photograph omitted)