Parliamentary Elections 

March 15-17, 2021


In a sign that Dutch voters have been satisfied with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s performance, his VVD party increased its vote total to 21.8% and 34 seats (+1 from 2017). The liberal D66 was also a clear winner, becoming the second-largest party in parliament with 15% of the vote and 24 seats (+5). Coalition partner CDA suffered a loss of 4 seats, down to 15, while GroenLinks lost 6 seats (now only holding 8); PvdA managed to hold its 9 seats. Finally, although the far-right PVV lost 3 seats (down to 17 with 10.8% of the vote), the other far-right force Forum for Democracy gained 6 seats, now holding 8 in parliament. A breakaway faction of FvD, JA21, has also entered the chamber with 3 seats. Turnout was 78.8%, slightly down from 81.4% four years ago. Coalition talks now begin, with VVD and D66 leading the negotiations to find governing partners—a complicated task given the number of parties that will be needed to reach a majority in parliament.


  • Bicameral parliament (States General) in a parliamentary constitutional monarchy: House of Representatives (150 seats) and Senate (75).

  • Senate members are elected by the twelve Provincial Councils every 4 years (indirect elections).

  • House elections held at least every 4 years, in 20 regional constituencies; votes cast for a party list in a proportional system.

  • Current government coalition: Prime Minister Mark Rutte leads a caretaker coalition of his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Democrats 66 (D66), and the Christian Union (CU).


  • 37 political parties running

  • Main parties:
    • People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy(VVD): center-right; free market; socially liberal but has taken an increasingly anti-immigration stance in recent years; pro-European; pro-NATO.
    • Democrats 66 (D66): center; mixed economy; socially liberal; pro-European in a more federal form and investment in defense; pro-NATO.
    • Labour Party(PvdA): center-left; social-democracy; pro-European but with more social reforms; pro-NATO.
    • Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA): center; Christian democracy; more socially conservative than other coalition partners; immigration-friendly; pro-EU; pro-NATO.
    • GroenLinks (GL): center-left; green party; social democracy; wants a more integrated, social European Union; supports moving NATO responsibilities to EU and UN, making Dutch armed forces a peace force.
    • Party for Freedom(PVV): far-right, founded in 2006 by Geert Wilders; economic populism; anti-immigration, anti-Islam; anti-EU; pro-NATO but advocates for ending Turkey’s membership.
    • Forum for Democracy (FvD): far-right; economically liberal; anti-immigration; anti-EU; pro-NATO without Turkey.

Impact on U.S. Interests

  • U.S.’s 7th largest foreign direct investor ($290bn in 2019); U.S. exported $45bn worth of goods to the Netherlands in 2020. Post-Brexit, Amsterdam may become a more important financial center for U.S. financial interests.

  • Active participant in NATO missions in Afghanistan and Baltic states; military contributor to the Global Coalition against Daesh (air campaign over Iraq and Eastern Syria).

  • Strong intelligence sharing cooperation and counter-intelligence partner of the U.S.

  • Important piece of the puzzle in the fight against corruption and money-laundering given the country’s lax company laws, letterbox companies, and pass-throughs to offshore tax havens.

Key Issues to Watch

  • PM Rutte’s government collapsed in January 2021 due to a scandal that saw thousands of families over the last few years (many from minority backgrounds) be falsely accused of child subsidy fraud, plunging some of them into bankruptcy.

  • Although people supported Rutte’s Covid-19 response in 2020, many have grown weary of tough restrictions (there were violent protests in January) and the slow vaccination campaign. The country has seen more than 15,700 deaths.

  • Rutte remains popular and leads the so-called “frugal” EU members, who want to limit financial burden-sharing across Europe. He could become the longest-service prime minister in Europe after German Chancellor Angela Merkel if he gets another term. The opposition has struggled to draw sharp contrasts with his leadership to lure away VVD voters.

  • Geert Wilders’s PVV is polling second after Rutte’s VVD but is unlikely to win enough seats to come to power. Wilders has criticized the government’s Covid response but support for the party has hovered around 20% for months and no other party is willing to form a coalition with PVV. Some voters may have shifted to PVV from the other far-right group, Forum for Democracy, which collapsed in 2020 following accusations of anti-Semitism in the youth wing. Its erratic leader, Thierry Baudet, has also been accused of racism and anti-Semitism.


Data source: Ipsos.

Data source: Ipsos.