"De PvdA en de VVD boeken vandaag allebei een enorme verkiezingsoverwinning. Samen met het CDA en D66 behalen de middenpartijen maar liefst 106 zetels. Het politieke midden is terug. En Europa is de grote winnaar van de avond.
[Own translation: 'Today Labour and the Party of Freedom and Democracy (right-wing liberals) have had a enormous election win . Together with the Christian Democrats and Social Liberals, the parties of the centre hold up to 106 seats. The political centre is back. And Europe is the biggest winner this evening.]"
At the time of writing with constituencies still to be declared, the results are (Europarty/seat change in brackets):
VVD (ELDR): 41 (+10). [This is the party of the outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte].
PvdA (PES): 39 (+9).
SP (GUE-NGL): 15 (0).
PVV (None): 15 (-9).
CDA (EPP): 13 (-8).
D66 (ELDR): 12 (+2).
GroenLinks (European Greens): 3 (-7).
Christen Unie (ECR): 5 (0).
SGP (EFD): 3 (+1).
PvdD (None): 2 (0).
50Plus (None): 2 (+2).
De Volkskrant is predicting a coalition of the centre and notes that the old coalition of VVD-CDA with support from Geert Wilders' anti-Islam and anti-Europe PVV would not have enough seats to form a majority (now around 69 seats) and that governments of the left and right blocks are only "theoretically possible". Clearly despite the big gains for the centre right and left the Dutch political system is still quite fragmented. If a grand coalition is formed it will be interesting to see if the return to the political centre will continue, or if the extremes will grow in opposition. The head-to-head race between the VVD and PvdA with different outlooks on key policy areas has probably been a big factor in attracting voters to the political centre, and now compromises need to be made to form a government. 76 seats are needed for a majority.
The election confirms the centre-right liberals (VVD) as the dominant party of the right in The Netherlands, with the formerly dominant Christian Democrats (CDA) continuing to decline. On the left, Labour (PvdA) has not only retained its position, but the far-left Socialist Party has failed to make the inroads widely expected at the start of the campaign. The SP had been doing well in the polls, but a poor performance in the leaders' debates (which were widely seen to have been won by Labour's Diederik Samsom) meant that they couldn't keep up their electoral momentum.
The result is a big boost for the pro-European parties. Geert Wilders, who pulled the plug on the last government, wanted to make the election into a referendum on Europe (and against austerity and EU membership) and the SP were also Eurosceptic on the left (against further bail-outs).
The next challenge will be for the VVD and PvdA to form a coalition government.