François Hollande’s victory in the French presidential polls this year showed how a single national election can change Europe’s political equilibrium. Now the forthcoming Dutch election is being shaken up by the eurozone’s attempts to end its crisis and threatening in return to cause complications for Europe. The election itself is a result of the Dutch government being a casualty of the eurozone crisis. Long a hawkish supporter of deficit cuts in the currency union’s periphery, the Netherlands was forced to take its own medicine when it went into recession last year and was set to miss fiscal targets agreed with the EU. An austerity package, designed by the coalition between prime minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right Liberal party and the Christian Democrats, led Geert Wilders’ populist Freedom party to withdraw parliamentary support and bring the government down. Both right and left are now riven by disagreements over how to handle the eurozone debt crisis. On the right, Mr Wilders has burnt his bridges and can only play the role of obstructionist. On the left, the Socialist party has outflanked the Labour party with strident criticism of both domestic austerity and the Fiscal Compact – the disciplining treaty demanded by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The SP, set to about double its electoral support, is moderating its rhetoric now that it stands a good chance of entering government for the first time. Still, this promises to be an election with unpredictable effects, even more for Europe than for the Netherlands itself. The fragmentation of the Dutch party spectrum almost guarantees a lengthy process of identifying a workable constellation in the new legislature. That may leave The Hague with a caretaker government for months, while big decisions must be made on Europe – ratifying the fiscal compact and the rescue fund, and agreeing on steps towards a banking union.
The rise of voter opposition to austerity and more eurozone integration, moreover, will weigh even on parties not running on such platforms. This could make the Dutch a less forthcoming participant in finding eurozone solutions – as one has seen in Finland after the True Finns’ electoral triumph.
Full Article: Dutch to the polls – FT.com.