Elections in The Netherlands
by Marta Regalia
General elections will be held in the Netherlands on Wednesday, 15 March 2017 to elect all the members of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives is composed of 150 seats elected by proportional representation in a single nationwide constituency.
About 30 political parties will participate in the March election. According to the polls, among them, seven parties will be able to gain more than ten seats: PVV (Party for Freedom), VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal), D66 (Democrats 66), GL (GroenLinks), SP (Socialist Party) and PvdA (Labour Party).
The Party for Freedom (Dutch: Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) is a nationalist and right-wing political party. Founded in 2006, the party is consistently Eurosceptic and it strongly advocates withdrawal from the EU. The party is against future EU enlargement to Muslim-majority countries like Turkey. On immigration, it has a strong assimilationist stance on the integration of immigrants into Dutch society. The party believes that immigrants should adapt to the Judeo-Christian and humanist traditions which are supposed to be the dominant culture in the Netherlands. Therefore, it is also opposed to dual citizenship. Moreover, the PVV wants to close the borders and to stop immigration especially from non-Western countries.
The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (Dutch: Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD) is a conservative-liberal political party. It has a pro-Europeanism stance and an integrationist approach on immigration (migrants have to integrate in order to become citizens and the option for dual citizenship should be minimized). According to its electoral programme, illegal immigration should become a criminal offence, asylum-seekers should be helped in their own regions so to control immigration flows, and the system for granting the refugee status should be more efficient and rapid.
The Christian Democratic Appeal (Dutch: Christen-Democratisch Appèl, CDA) is a Christian-democratic political party. The party is a loyal advocate of European integration and supports Turkey’s EU membership. Along with a strong pro-European policy, it promotes a friendlier immigration policy that favours the integration of minorities into Dutch culture. According to the CDA electoral programme, migrants are required to respect and support Dutch values so to fully integrate into Dutch society. To this end, language and culture courses are proposed. However, the refusal to integrate can bring, in extreme cases, to the loss of the residency permit.
Democrats 66 (Dutch: Politieke Partij Democraten 66, D66) is a social-liberal and progressive political party. It favours a Federal Europe and more European cooperation on issues such as the environment, defence and security policies, immigration and foreign policies. On immigration, D66 proposes a strong language education policy to include immigrants into the economic and civil society. The goal is to transform immigration from a problem to a resource for Dutch society.
GroenLinks (GL) is a green political party. While critical of certain aspects of the EU, it favours European Integration but advocates a new treaty based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity. The party fosters a social Europe and is against austerity policies. GreenLeft favours liberal immigration and asylum policies: through a coherent policy of integration and equal opportunities, it aims at removing cultural and religious barriers. Thus, a policy of inclusion, especially in the labour market, is supported along with a strong emphasis on multiculturalism.
The Socialist Party (Dutch: Socialistische Partij, SP) is a left-wing, social-democratic political party. It sees the European Union as an organization which favours multinational corporations. It therefore wants to negotiate on a new European treaty, that will abolish the European Commission and its power to prescribe regulations and that will reinforce the independence of the affiliated countries by increasing their citizens’ opportunities for participation and handing member states more powers. The Socialist Party does not have a strong stance on immigration. The electoral programme only hopes for small scale reception facilities for refugees and a rapid handling of the necessary asylum procedures.
Finally, the Labour Party (Dutch: Partij van de Arbeid, PvdA) is a social-democratic political party. The party is in favour of a “Europe of the people” instead of a “Europe of the markets”. Thus, it promotes a strengthened integration in labour, immigration and fiscal policies. Regarding immigration, the PvdA fosters a European solution on the refugee problem: while recalling that the number of immigrants a country can host is not unlimited, it promotes a fair distribution among EU Member States and a policy of repatriation of economic migrants. Moreover, the party favours an integrationist stance (“unity in diversity”), which implies an acceptance of Dutch culture and values.
Figure 1 shows Dutch parties’ positions on immigration and European Union. Negative values correspond to negative attitude towards the two issues. So, for example, the Party for Freedom (PVV) is very negative on both immigration and the EU, while Democrats 66 (D66) is in favour of both European integration and a more open policy toward immigration.
Figure 1 – Dutch parties’ positions on immigration and European Union
Source: author’s elaboration on the basis of parties’ respective manifestos