This week the Dutch government officially broke a record that had stood since 1977 by not having a government in place for 208 consecutive days. The parliamentary elections that took place on March 15 this year resulted in a heavily fragmented parliament that struggled to create an effective coalition.
However, these types of dragged out formations are nothing new for a country that finds a two-party system a foreign concept. With 13 different parties gaining government seats, it was to be expected that the birth of a new government wasn’t going to be a quick and easy ride.
The 208-day long period saw a failed coalition with the Green Left in June, when a consensus couldn’t be reached concerning more lenient immigration policies. The remaining parties – the centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the conservative Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the liberal D66 – found a new coalition partner in the conservative Christian Union (CU).
While these four parties were closer on the political spectrum, issues still arose due to the religious character of the Christion Union and CDA. The most liberal party in the coalition, D66 wanted to extend euthanasia laws to a broader range of people, not just terminally ill patients. This specific topic extended the formation with a significant amount of time.
In the end all four parties agreed on the government’s key policies concerning tax, refugees, education, healthcare and sick pay this week. Whilst an agreement has been reached between these four parties, the next four years are going to be challenging since the coalition only has a one-seat majority in the 150-seat Dutch parliament.
The mostly conservative coalition will face strong opposition from both the left leaning parties and the infamous PVV, led by Geert Wilders. The bleached haired politician was expected to come out of the elections as the big winner but failed to make it a reality. Instead, the Green Left came out as one of the top dogs, a trend seen in more European elections this year.
While a period of 208 days is a record in itself, it also displays the strength of the Dutch system. These 208 days have been long and uneventful where no scandals or imminent threats were made towards a fragile non-existing government.
To put it in more colourful language, no Dutch citizen lost a minute of sleep while sleeping on their non-governed soil. Call me boring, but this kind of trust is something to be proud of.
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