Most parties in a century contest Dutch election

From the Party for Animals to the Party Party, the Netherlands on Friday confirmed a near-100-year record of 37 political groups that will context next month’s general election.

The list approved by the Dutch Electoral Council is the longest since 1922 and large even by the standards of the country’s diverse political landscape.

Alongside the host of smaller parties will be the liberal VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, seeking a fourth term, and his current coalition partners.

The far-right PVV party of Geert Wilders and Euro- and coronavirus-sceptic Forum for Democracy of Thierry Baudet are also included.

“It’s noticeably more than four years ago” when the Netherlands last held elections, Electoral Council chief Wim Kuijken told a press conference.

The number had already been whittled down by more than half from 89 that applied in December.

The parties taking part include Denk, which mainly represents people of Turkish origin, parties for over-50s and young people, and the Party for Animals which backs animal rights.

There is also the Jesus Lives party, while the Party Party seeks “more positivity in this society” and proposes to give 10,000 euros ($11,992) tax free to each Dutch citizen to boost spending in coronavirus-hit bars and cafes.

The Dutch elections will be closely watched in Europe as one of the first major electoral tests on the continent of a government’s coronavirus policies.

They will also be a verdict on Rutte and his government, which resigned in January over a scandal in which thousands of parents were falsely accused of benefit fraud.

Rutte and his cabinet have stayed on to oversee the response to the pandemic.

The Netherlands has long relied on a “Polder model” of government by consensus, named after the low-lying country’s areas of drained land between dykes which historically required careful management.

This political tradition tends to involve coalition governments with large numbers of parties which can take a long time to form, and also involves consultations by the government with unions and other parties.

Parliament currently has MPs from 13 parties plus two indepdendent lawmakers.

The elections would normally take place on one day but because of the coronavirus crisis the polls will be open from March 15 to 17 this year.