Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Netherlands Moves Right, but Faces Political Gridlock

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Netherlands Moves Right, but Faces Political Gridlock

Article excerpt

As the dust settles following the most chaotic national parliament election in recent Dutch history, the political air remains unclear. It may stay that way for months as the new government, now led by the conservative party of Christian Democrats, seeks a way to build a coalition with the relatively unknown politicians from assassinated populist Pim Fortuyn's party, the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF).

Wednesday's election confirmed Europe's shift to the right, with voters casting aside traditional parties for failing to address issues such as crime and immigration. Many of the newly elected officials have little or no political experience, which analysts say will make it difficult to enact the reforms the people say they want.

Though many of the newly elected members of Parliament were on the Rotterdam city government, they have only been in those positions for four months. Some only joined the "List" within the past six weeks.

The most difficult question is how the new government, headed by Christian Democrat leader and likely prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, will build a coalition with the LPF.

"Mutual trust is a prerequisite to working together," Mr. Balkenende said of the chances of forming a coalition.

The last parliament already had 15 parties, forcing the debate to the very middle where few innovative or controversial ideas were brought up. The left wing - with Labor, Liberal, Democrats of '66 (D'66), and a smattering of small groups - could form a major block, undercutting any ideas the Christian Democrats and LPF have toward reform.

"The political landscape right now is a surrealistic landscape," says Sjoerd Vellenga, campaign manager for the leftist D'66 party, which lost four seats. "In half a year, the whole sphere has changed."

"There has been a hardening of positions on all sides," Mr. Vellenga says. …

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