Election Day

Today was election day in the Netherlands.  We went to the polls to elect our new national government.  Above is a photo of the ballot paper that was hung in the hallway leading to the polling station where I voted.  See all the lines printed there?  Each line is a name of a person you could vote for.  There are 18 political parties represented in this list.  How can you run a country with 18 political parties for heaven’s sake?

It’s complicated.

First of all, you vote for 1 person, but you are really voting for the party.  Pick your party and from the party’s list of names, choose a name.  The names don’t really matter because the party will choose who from their ranks will be in the government.

The number of seats each party gets in the government is determined by how many votes they get.  In the current (collapsed and failed) government, there were 10 parties represented in the “Second Chamber” of 150 members.  Of course with this many parties no one party has enough of a majority to actually rule, so they must form a coalition.  It was funny during the recent UK elections to hear them exclaim about forming a coalition.  They were just aghast at the prospect!  But here it is very normal.  It’s always this way.

This year it’s especially exciting, in a Dutch way*.  The PvdA and VVD are neck and neck and the previously most popular CDA has lost a huge number of seats.  We just saw the first preliminary results on tv and it’s clear that the real results won’t be known until Friday.  It’s just that close.

And just because the election itself is over, don’t think that you will then know who is running the country.  Oh no.  Only then do they know how many seats each party has.  THEN they have to start the negotiations around the coalition and who will work with whom.  At some point the Queen herself gets involved as she has to give her blessing to any government.  It’s going to be interesting these next weeks!

* by “a Dutch way” I mean that compared to US elections it’s very calm and restrained.  They have limits to how much money they can spend on campaigns which is great.  There are only a few tv commercials and most of the campaigning I’ve seen has been the debates on tv.  The two big debates they had were between the 8 largest parties.  Try THAT in the US.  Ha!  It was run pretty well although the second debate, which was last night, was too much of a circus for me.

I’ll let you know the outcome, when there is one.  It’s never over until the fat lady sings (sorry Bea).

2 thoughts on “Election Day

  1. Myrte June 10, 2010 / 07:35

    What a nice review of Dutch elections! We have a funny little country.

  2. Anneke June 10, 2010 / 19:56

    Hi, I’d just like to say that it does matter on who you vote, the more “voorkeurstemmen” a person gets the bigger his/her chance of getting into parliament. Say a party get 20 seats, but number 22 got a lot of votes, enough to make him/her more prefered than number 20. This means no. 22 gets a seat, but no. 20 does not. 🙂

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