In the first place, more than 80% of the Dutch population voted. Compared to the USA a very high number. One reason for that is that people really feel they can vote for someone who represents their views.
Let me try to explain what happened.
The Christian Democratic Appeal has been the ruling party for the last 4 years. This party has its roots in Christian movements at the end of the 19th century. In order to form a majority, and thus a government, the CDA formed a coalition with the VVD and D66. Bascially conservative, moderate right wing, if you take everything together. Because the D66 pulled out of the Cabinet last spring new elections were needed.
The Labor Party was the great rival of the CDA and had hoped to win this election. Their leader would then become Prime Minister. Last spring it looked like they would win in a landslide.
The problem in Dutch politics is that there are really no "hot issues" at this moment. The immigration issues are pretty much resolved, the economy is getting better, government finances and the welfare system have been reformed. More work needs to be done, but essentially things are going along OK.
Interestingly enough, the Iraq War was not an issue in these elections. And the environment did not get much attention either.
So what happened? The CDA lost some seats but is still the biggest party and will probably provide the Prime Minister (Balkenende again). The VVD and D66 lost big time. They are totally out of the picture.
The Labour Party lost also. They do not have enough seats to come close to forming a coalition government.
The SP, the Socialist Party, went from nine to twentysix seats. These were the old communists. They took many voters from the Labor Party. Primarily because of the trustworthiness of the leader of the SP. People trusted him more than the young leader of the Labor Party, Wouter Bos.
Two big surprises:
The Party for Freedom won nine seats. This party is very right wing, extremely so.
And the Party for Animals won two seats. A party that wants to protect the rights of animals. For example, this party wants to ban the castration of pigs without anaesthesia.
So the Dutch politcal landscape is splintered. That will make forming a government difficult.
The Christian Union, a conservative evangelical Christian party, had 3 seats in Parliament, now has 6 seats.
There is a chance that this party is big enough that it could form, with other parties, a majority in Parliament and thus help form the government.
Imagine: in liberal, apostate Holland, villified because of its policies on drugs, sex, euthanasia and homosexuality, an evangelical conservative Christian party may play a major role in the government.
I wonder what World Magazine will say about that, if anything.