Dutch government loses Senate majority amid populist surge
The Dutch government will lose its majority in the Senate after provincial elections on Wednesday, according to exit polls, as voters flocked to a new populist party two days after a possible terrorist attack in the city of Utrecht, Trend reports citing Reuters.
If confirmed, the result would mean that Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right coalition will need to seek outside support to pass legislation.
The exit poll conducted by research firm Ipsos on behalf of national broadcaster NOS showed the new Forum for Democracy will become the second-largest party in the Senate - after Rutte’s conservative VVD Party - in its first try.
Following the lead of U.S. President Donald Trump, Forum for Democracy leader Thierry Baudet opposes immigration and emphasizes “Dutch first” cultural and economic themes.
Pollsters had for weeks predicted Rutte’s center-right coalition could lose its Senate majority in the election. But experts including pollster Maurice de Hond said the attack in Utrecht - which killed three people - appeared to boost turnout most among voters who oppose immigration.
The exit poll forecast Rutte’s VVD will fall to 12 from 13 seats in the 75-member Senate, and his coalition as a whole will fall from 38 seats to 31 seats. The Forum for Democracy is estimated to take 10 seats. Final results will be published by the country’s Electoral Council on March 25.
The Senate is the upper house of the Dutch parliament and is responsible for reviewing legislation passed by the more powerful lower house.
Forum for Democracy leader Baudet shocked establishment parties by saying the Utrecht attack was the result of lax government immigration policies, Others had suspended campaigning.
The motive of the 37-year-old Turkish-born man arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack on a tram is not yet known..
“You can tell what’s going on anyway,” Baudet told supporters at a rally. “This is a combination of an honor killing and a half-terrorist motive.”
The Dutch economy has been one of Europe’s best performers under successive Rutte-led governments, but resentment over early 2010s austerity programs linger. Recent debate has focused on funding the government’s plans to meet international goals on climate change and the likely cost to taxpayers.
Many supporters of the conservative parties in Rutte’s coalition are skeptical of spending on climate change. Meanwhile left-leaning voters feel not enough is being done and defected to the pro-environment Green Left party, which also booked big gains on Wednesday.
Rutte is expected to look to the Green Left and Labour parties for outside support once the new Senate is seated in May.