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European elections in the Netherlands: pro-European parties must hope for bad weather in June

All reports suggest that the upcoming European elections are of little interest to voters in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, lethargy strikes mainly because there seems to be no progress in the formation of a new government. Voters drop out in disappointment. Yet the European elections could have a major impact on the Dutch cabinet formation. Meanwhile, signals from Europe show that people in Brussels are increasingly unable to interpret what is going on in the Netherlands and what the Dutch European contribution will be.

While campaigns have started from Brussels to warm up voters in the member states for the European elections, Europe is hardly an issue for most Dutch people. After the surprisingly large gains by Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom and the 'newcomers' New Social Contract and Boer Burger Beweging (Farmer Citizen Movement), a formation process has been dragging on for months now, keeping Dutch politics in a kind of grip. While the negotiating parties swear that progress is being made behind the scenes, the Green Left/PvdA party in particular is stepping up the pressure. If the current formation fails, there is a good chance that Frans Timmermans will still get a chance to form a cabinet.

Geert Wilders seems to be the only political leader who wants the current formation to succeed. But strangely enough, he also benefits from letting the formation continue for a while longer. Indeed, scarce polls for the European elections show that over a quarter of Dutch people say they intend to vote for the PVV. The other 'winner' of the Lower House elections, Pieter Omtzigt's NSC, is in danger of not even reaching the European electoral threshold, as voters are disappointed by Omtzigt's failure (yet) to deliver on his promised decisiveness and administrative innovations. Spectacular gains in Europe will strengthen Wilders' negotiating position in the Netherlands. Now he must hope that his voters will actually vote, because until now, Wilders has always radiated that he wants nothing to do with Europe. He always stood for a 'Nexit', but now he joins other European right-wing populists who want to erode 'Europe' from within. That makes it even more relevant whether the weather is good in June or not. In bad weather, PVV voters traditionally often drop out.

So what does this mean for the Netherlands in Europe?

Dutch officials and journalists in Brussels are concerned about the way the Netherlands has turned away from Europe in recent times. For years, the Netherlands was a member state that could be counted on in Brussels and Strasbourg. The Netherlands actually had a position ready on every issue. That has changed. Increasingly, the Netherlands has no position because the division at home is too great or the position is not what one would expect in Brussels. If the Netherlands gets an anti-European coalition, that process will only get worse, making the Netherlands an unpredictable partner.

And what outcome do we expect for the European elections?

As mentioned, the PVV is at 25% in the polls. This takes the PVV from zero to nine seats. Second in the polls is GroenLinks-PvdA, which would get seven seats with just under 20% of the vote. That is two less than in 2019, when GroenLinks and the PvdA competed separately and the PvdA, with Frans Timmermans as list leader, surprisingly became the largest party with six seats.

In the European Parliament, the GroenLinks and the PvdA belong to different political groups. The PvdA is affiliated to the social democratic S&D group, Green Left to the European Greens. Remarkably, the parties have not yet agreed on the distribution of seats if it later turns out that Green Left candidates, for example, are elected with preferential votes, pushing Labour Party candidates off the list.

The PVV is part of Identity and Democracy, with France's Rassemblement National (formerly Front National) and Germany's Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

In the poll, the VVD is third with 6 seats, a gain of 2. The remaining Dutch seats seem to go to D66 (liberal democrats) (2), CDA (Christian Democrats) (2) and Volt (transeuropean democrats) (2). That means no seats for NSC and BBB.

Now to find voters. At the moment, only 40% of Dutch people say they will vote and that is probably exaggerated. This is due to disinterest in Europe, aversion to the Dutch political situation and complete unfamiliarity of European candidates. So Europe can prepare for a split Dutch vote with an anti-Europe bloc and a pro-Europe bloc. Which bloc will be the biggest depends mainly on turnout of Dutch voters. And the weather in June…

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