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Geert Wilders' PVV party appears to have taken the largest number of seats in the Dutch election. However, thirty seven seats is far short of the 76 needed for a majority in the 150 seat parliament, so the PVV will have to form some sort of coalition in order to rule.

Is it possible for the smaller parties to group together to get over the 76 seat barrier rather than the PVV? I'm asking about the mechanics of coalitions in the Netherlands rather than the ideological positons of the parties - I understand that parties of the right and left may well find it difficult to work together.

ehttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/15819/production/_131798088_progseats_dutch_election-nc.png.webp

(Image from the BBC https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/15819/production/_131798088_progseats_dutch_election-nc.png.webp)

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    Just by basic math, it would need at least three other parties, but three or more party coalitions have already happened in the past in the Netherlands. I think this question kind of answers itself. Nov 23, 2023 at 20:14

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Yes, there is no limit to the number of parties which work together to form a coalition government in the Netherlands. The fourth Rutte Cabinet before the 2023 election consisted of four parties. Taking the projected results in the question, the PvdA/GL, VVD, NSC, and D66 could form a governing coalition with 79 seats.

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    Would there be any conditions though, given that none of them are the biggest party? I imagine an informal coalition is possible, but are there specific required procedures for forming a coalition that excludes the party which actually won the election?
    – kenod
    Nov 23, 2023 at 15:22
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    @kenod Each party wins a number of seats. There is no such thing as "winning the election", unless you mean getting an absolute majority. But that has never happened in the Netherlands.
    – user48115
    Nov 23, 2023 at 20:27
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    @haxor789 I was thinking more about the fact that in other countries, who gets the first chance to form a coalition can depend on other factors, so I was wondering if a no-confidence vote needed to be held first, or other procedures needed to be followed for another party to form a coalition with them as PM.
    – kenod
    Nov 24, 2023 at 8:05
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    @user48115 - it happened in 1894 when the Liberal Union won 49.8% of the vote and more than half the seats
    – Henry
    Nov 24, 2023 at 12:38
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    @kenod Because the Netherlands are technically a monarchy there is a formal and an actual process. Technically the monarch is the government and they appoint a council of ministers to assist them. Practically before 2012 the king, now the parliament, appoints one or many "informateurs" which are meant to initiate coalition talks and then a formateur (shaper), usually the next prime minister, is compiling a list of ministers. Technically there's also no vote of no confidence but approval for ministers and resigning when being told to is the unwritten law.
    – haxor789
    Nov 24, 2023 at 13:49
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According to Euronews, typically the "shaper" has been someone (I guess most common the leader) of the party that won the largest number of seats. So, making a coalition starting with a lower-ranked party would be a bit unusual, tradition-wise, but apparently not unconstitutional.

The process of forming a new government begins when all the parties have preliminary discussions to explore what combination of parties might be able to work together to reach the magic majority threshold of 76 seats in 150-seat parliament.

The lower house then appoints an "informer", who is responsible for defining the possible contours of a coalition agreement. Until 2012, this person was appointed by the King.

When it appears that a group of parties can work together, a "shaper" is appointed - almost always the person who won the election, who begins the delicate work of putting together a potential cabinet.

The parties then sign a coalition agreement and the new government presents its plans to the lower house, which then has to vote on them in a vote of confidence.

(The more official terms for those are "informateur" and "formateur".)

Also from there, the NSC did not rule out talking to the PVV, but the greens did. PVV+NSC are about 20 seats short of a majority though.

The party that might be close enough positions wise to those and apparently hasn't said much is the... VVD. But what makes that complicated is at least the fact that the current PM is the head of that party. And there might be other issues, like Wilders wanting a referendum to leave the EU. The NSC is also Eurosceptic (apparently along the PiS-Hungary lines), but doesn't quite seem to want an outright 'Nexit'.

The plot thickens however because Rutte (while still PM) is no longer party leader (of the VVD) though [apparently since August]...

Ever since Mark Rutte’s replacement as VVD leader, Dilan Yeşilgöz, indicated early in the campaign that she could potentially enter coalition talks with Wilders, the far-right leader has worked hard to look more reasonable. He diluted some of his most strident positions, particularly on Islam — such as banning mosques — saying there are bigger priorities to fix.

And Yeşilgöz is also apparently quite a bit anti-immigration, even opposing international students to a degree.

BTW, such talks can take a long time in the Dutch system. In 2017 it took 225 days to form a cabinet, and the PVV had only come in second then. Back then there was effectively a firewall formed against the PVV.

Another point of interest is 2010 when a minority government was formed [after 127 days], but with some PVV support in form of a "gedoogakkoord"--tolerance/toleration agreement--, which Wikipedia described as "a novelty in Dutch politics". (And Wikipedia lists a boatload of successively appointed "informateurs" for those negotiations.) That agreement lasted till 2012.

Time notes that's not totally unprecedented for the party that came first in the polls to not be part of the government.

In 1982, the Dutch Labor Party won the most seats, but its center-right rivals wound up at the head of the governing coalition.

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  • The "shaper" might not really be an official job. Typically at some point parliament simply votes for someone to become prime minister. There might be some conventions how exactly the candidates are selected and in which order the vote is taking place but otherwise parliament will be completely free to elect whomever they chose (which would also answer this question). Nov 23, 2023 at 22:01
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    The 2017 formation was not the longest either. The formation of Rutte IV in 2021 started in March and ended in January, taking a total of 299 days.
    – TooTea
    Nov 24, 2023 at 10:14
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    I've marked this as 'accepted' because it is detailed, backed by citations and the quote at the end shows that not only is it possible, but that the 'minor' parties have done this before. Nov 25, 2023 at 13:14
  • Is there anything about new elections if no governing coalition can be formed within a certain time in the Netherlands? Nov 28, 2023 at 15:01
  • @NoDataDumpNoContribution: IDK. It would be a good separate Q though. I haven't followed up all the developments, but the VVD appears to be having 2nd thoughts about a joint government with PVV time.com/6339428/… Nov 28, 2023 at 15:05
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In theory, it is possible, but there's one big obstacle: The VVD has already said that they aren't interested in being part of a coalition this government cycle, and at most are willing to provide support to a center-right minority cabinet. Due to the immense fragmentation of anything outside the top 4, a majority coalition would require at least 8 different parties if it wouldn't include the PVV and the VVD. That's an absurdly broad cabinet, and there are HUGE ideological hurdles to be overcome.

In fact, it's even worse than that: assuming right-wing parties do not want to join a leftist government (which is extremely likely), a government without PVV, FvD, BBB and VVD would be a 10 party monstrosity. And a government without PVV and PvdA/GL would be an equally massive 9 party megacoalition and REQUIRE support by the VVD. A 9 or even 10 party coalition would be nearly unheard of in the EU, and especially in the Netherlands. Just about the only times in history when a government of that magnitude has been formed was "grand coalition" style agreements in times of war.

Part of the issue is that those 9 party coalitions would almost be a "government of national unity", because even when you assume that centrists party would be happy to rule with either side, there just aren't enough parties on either the left OR the right to form a majority government alongside 1 side of the political spectrum. Even if every left- and center party joined into one massive coalition, they'd still be 1 seat short for a majority, and a right-wing coalition with PVV but without VVD could numerically be formed but in reality wouldn't work because CDA explicitly said before the elections that they do not want to form a coalition with PVV.

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  • This answer discusses some of the difficulties of forming a coalition without the PVV. But wouldn't on the other hand any coalition with the PVV face exactly the same challenges like insufficient support among other parties or are parties actually lining up to form a government with the PVV? To me it rather looks like a gridlock and in such situations anything is possible, including but not limited to 9 party coalitions, maybe as 5 party minority governments tolerated by the remaining 4. What did the VVD say about a possible coalition with the PVV? Nov 28, 2023 at 12:08
  • @NoDataDumpNoContribution I'll update my answer to clarify more about that, but the gist of it is that 9 party coalitions like that would include both left wing and right wing parties because without the PVV neither side has a convincing majority, even accounting for the centre bloc.
    – Nzall
    Nov 28, 2023 at 12:26
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There certainly could be a coalition of opposition to Wilders.

The only problem is that if you exclude any of the agenda of the biggest party in the election, that has scored about 50% more than the next biggest party, then you risk undermining the legitimacy of the process and eventually there could be an emergence of organised political violence and civil war.

At the very least, such a wide-ranging coalition consisting of unlikely bedfellows, should probably hold another election which offers their combined agenda to the electorate.

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    I think this is a fallacy. Just because the PVV is the biggest party doesn't mean that it's more important than a number of smaller parties that together could be bigger. Democracy is all about majorities, at none about violence or civil war. If the PVV could not accept not being in government, that would actually be a very bad sign for democracy in the Netherlands. Nov 23, 2023 at 20:12
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    The idea that a majority-coalition of democratically elected representatives could lead to violence and civil war is beyond absurd, and completely out of touch with reality.
    – user48156
    Nov 23, 2023 at 20:30
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    -1 for the "legitimacy" fallacy. Wilder's folks got 36 seats. No more. No less. The only driver is whether a coalition can be formed without them. Which is quite possible, seeing as they seem to be considered persona non grata by many other parties. Now, whether a PVV voter, or yourself, apparently, disagree with them being considered lepers doesn't matter: what matters is their total vote/seats and whether or not others are willing to join them in a coalition This talk about violence and civil war is just hot air, promoting a party which has slightly more than 25% of the seats Nov 23, 2023 at 21:14
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    Take Sweden, which has an election system similar to the Dutch, as an example. The Social Democrats have been the largest party in every single parliamentary election since 1917, but they have been out of power plenty of times (including right now). The legitimacy of this have never been in question. A couple of times they had well over 40% of the vote and their opposition could still form a governing coalition.
    – jkej
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:39
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    @Steve What do you mean by "often, scarcely a majority even turn out"? Voter turnout at parliamentary elections has been around 80% for decades. And of course nobody believes that the coalition represents the unadulterated view of the majority. Because first of all there is no "the majority", there are many different views on many different topics with different degrees of compatibility. And more importantly, whole point of having a coalition of elected officials is to find a middle ground between the plethora of differing views, not to force one view at the cost of all others.
    – user48159
    Nov 24, 2023 at 8:20

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