After Dutch election — time to build bridges

Image: Dutch lower house of parliament, wiki commons

March 16, 2017

The Dutch have voted, the results are in. What happened? There was no breakthrough for the polarising populism of Geert Wilders, while there is support for Europe.

At the same time, the Dutch parliament has become more conservative. PAX will do everything we can to give the parties negotiating a new coalition agreement proposals for building-bridges, stronger development cooperation, peace and justice.

Fear v. hope
Yesterday, while millions of Dutch people were going to the polls, a quote from Nelson Mandela was circulating on Twitter. “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” The outcome of the election can be seen as hope and fear fighting for prominence: the fear propagated by Geert Wilders, as well as by other conservative parties, versus the hope embodied by Green Left leader Jesse Klaver. Turnout, at 80 percent, was high, in and of itself a positive sign since it reflects a public engaged in politics, an important element of democracy.

The voters have spoken, but now comes the hard part: the process of forming a coalition government. This is a crucial element in the Dutch political system, and is even more important given yesterday’s election outcome. At least four parties will be needed to form a government, the most in Dutch history. Those parties will enter a period of horse-trading, each party trying to get their priorities into the coalition agreement.

Even though Geert Wilders’ party is the second-largest in parliament, there is very little chance that he will be asked to join a new government. But the ideas he represents remain a concern.

PAX priorities
In advocating for a good coalition agreement, PAX will focus on refugees, migration, radicalisation, armed extremism, defence and development cooperation. Of course, compromises will have to be made, but these must not undermine international norms or the rule of law.

Invest in Development Cooperation
It is crucial that the new Dutch government invest not only in dealing with the symptoms of the refugee crisis or radicalisation, but rather in tackling the reasons people are fleeing or radicalising: the lack of opportunity, of security, justice and hope. That requires investing in diplomacy and development cooperation. In the run-up to the election, a group of parties formed a pact expressing support for these ideals. PAX will advocate that the new government invests in diplomacy, prevention and development cooperation.

People as engine of change
PAX will present those negotiating a governing agreement with concrete proposals for measures aimed at bridge-building, peace and security. Just as importantly, PAX will also invest in citizens as agents of change. After all, bridge-building among communities is not just a task for the new government, but for citizens and civils society organizations like PAX. 

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