Historically low turnout for 2022 municipal elections
Polling stations opened up at 7.30am on Monday, March 15 for the first of three days of voting in the Netherlands. While local elections generally tend to see a lower voter turnout, the Dutch gemeenteraadsverkiezingen are also open to a huge number of expats and internationals living in the Netherlands, resulting in a significantly higher number of eligible voters.
In spite of this, however, this year’s election saw a historically low turnout, with only 50,3 percent of people showing up to cast their vote, breaking the previous record of 53,8 percent set in 2014. Dutch Minister for Internal Affairs, Hanke Bruis Slot, has announced she will be conducting an investigation into the reason for such a low turnout.
“For us, it is very important in the analysis to look at: what are the causes of the low turnout,” Bruis Slot said on Thursday morning, explaining that it wasn’t clear whether “local circumstances or national matters” were responsible.
Local parties and new parties celebrate big wins
This low turnout didn’t stand in the way of various local parties celebrating a successful evening. A number of the major Dutch political parties also enjoyed some solid wins across different municipalities, but the Netherlands’ local political parties were the big winners of the night, further strengthening their hold on local politics.
All in all, local parties took home around 36 percent of the vote, up from 29 percent four years ago. De Mos (also known as Hart voor Den Haag) remains the largest party in The Hague. Similarly, in Rotterdam, Leefbaar Rotterdam held onto its majority and kept all 11 of its seats on the Municipal Council. In Maastricht, the Senioren Partij overtook the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) to become the biggest party in the municipality.
New parties also enjoyed a fairly successful election results night, as BIJ1, JA21, and Volt all claimed seats in a number of municipalities across the country. In spite of these wins, however, the newer parties didn’t lead to any major shifts in the make-up of the Dutch Municipal Councils.
Rutte’s VVD remains biggest party in the Netherlands
Some of the bigger parties will also be celebrating on Thursday. After suffering slightly in the 2021 General Election, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver was relieved to see his party’s grip on local politics strengthen. “I hardly dare to believe it,” he said. While Groenlinks lost its majority to the Labour Party (PvdA) in the Dutch capital, it increased its number of seats overall and became the largest party in both Tilburg and Leiden.
With 17 percent of the vote, PvdA was, of course, overjoyed to claim the win in Amsterdam, but the party also won seats in Maastricht, Zwolle, and Dordrecht, amongst others. The Party for the Animals (PvdD) also celebrated a successful evening, receiving significantly more votes in 2022 compared to four years ago.
The party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), remains the largest party in the Netherlands, but did lose a limited number of seats. D66 was also not disappointed by the final results, becoming the largest party in Den Bosch, Gouda, and Amersfoort with leader Sigrid Kaag celebrating the party’s “hard-won extra seats.”
Some major Dutch parties left disappointed by results
On the other hand, some of the key parties were left disappointed. Thierry Baudet, leader of Forum for Democracy (FvD), acknowledged he had “expected a little more” from the results, but maintained that he was satisfied with the party’s performance.
Similarly, while Wopke Hoekstra was quick to say he wasn’t disappointed by his party’s performance, the CDA still suffered a number of blows, losing its majority in various municipalities. Overall, however, the party did manage to win seats.
Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) also suffered losses, receiving considerably fewer votes and winning only 61 seats nationally. The Socialist Party (SP) didn’t live up to its expectations either, as it lost its majority in Oss to a local party, and saw its overall proportion of the votes dwindle from more than 4 percent in 2018 to just 2,7 percent.