203 The Netherlands in Comparative Context: Reverting to Consociation or Building Toward a New Normal?

Thursday, June 27, 2013: 9:00 AM-10:45 AM
5.60 (PC Hoofthuis)
Dutch politics in the new millennium has been anything but normal.  Fueled in part by the rise of populist parties on the Dutch shifted from a multiparty system dominated by three parties to a more fragmented system in which none had more than 20% of the vote and seats in parliament.   Reflecting rising electoral volatility, election outcomes were uncertain and cabinets short-lived.  If the Dutch had a special gift for compromise, it eluded them.  

These trends appeared set to continue in 2012.  The Rutte government -- unusual because it was a minority government, sustained by the new right Freedom Party (PVV) -- collapsed, triggering new elections. Reflecting the strength of populist parties on the flanks, the Netherlands -- previously a model of a “working multiparty system” (Almond, 1956) -- appeared to be drifting toward polarized pluralism, replete with a hollowing out of the centre (Sartori, 1976).   However, that is not what occurred:   Deciding late and voting strategically, many voters shifted toward the Liberals (VVD) and the Social Democrats (PvdA).  The former had been growing steadily.  Coming from behind, the PvdA siphoned votes from the Left Socialists (SP). The outcome provided the basis for the formation of a VVD-led coalition of Liberals and Social Democrats. To all appearances, the Dutch had reverted, however temporarily, if not to consociational democracy, then to more business-like game of politics in which opponents cooperated in ways that served party and public interest.

Roundtable participants will be asked not only to comment on what happened and whether it is likely to last, but also what this tells us about smaller democracies, how they respond to social, economic, and political change, and the role which the Netherlands has played as a pattern state in theories of consociational democracy.  Of particular interest is the ability – if any – of political elites to maintain a politics of accommodation in light of new cleavages, uncertain support and the emergence of populist parties, if not on the margins of the party system, then in the core, because of the transformation of existing parties.

Kris Deschouwer
Hans Daalder , Sarah de Lange , Wouter van der Brug , Steven B Wolinetz and Hans Goslinga
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