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A Culture War Deferred

The Dutch elections—much to the candidates’ surprise—are more about money than Muslims.

Jun 7, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 36 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
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But no sooner had Cohen replaced Bos than the situation in Greece became critical. Wilders’s issues were taken off the table and Cohen’s discomfort with economic issues was made manifest. In three debates over the past ten days, he has struggled on questions of how the country’s medical-insurance system works, on how pensions are funded, and even on what the details of his party’s platform are. His larger problem is that, since Dutch mayors are appointed, not elected, he finds himself in a big electoral campaign for the first time. People still like Cohen a great deal, and he may indeed be a Barack Obama in the privacy of his office, but it is clear he is not one on the stump.

The beneficiary of this impasse is Mark Rutte of the free-market VVD party. An excellent debater with a real command of monetary policy and a willingness to call for a hard-line immigration policy, he is winning back voters not only from D-66 but also from the Wilders party. This leaves one member of the PVV fuming that the VVD’s immigration policy is “an exact copy of us.” The VVD, that is, would impose Wilders’s immigration policies, but without the unseemly appearance of enjoying it too much. 

The drawback is that it is hard to see what coalition could be formed around the VVD. A “purple” coalition with the PvdA is one possibility. Another is the “Danish model” (Rutte visited Denmark two months ago) in which a minority government of free-marketers and Christian Democrats could count on the votes of the PVV, so long as it legislates aggressively on immigration and multiculturalism.

There is one aspect of the Dutch multiparty system, though, that is likely to endure under any conceivable circumstance. “Elections lead to a government no one wants,” says the pollster De Hond, “even if you’re a member of the party in power.”

Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor of The Weekly Standard.

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