The surprise win of the far-right PVV party has thrown the future of the Dutch pension law into doubt. The PVV victory means opponents of the new pension law now have a slim parliamentary majority.
The PVV more than doubled its share of the vote to 23.5%, or 37 seats in the 150-seat Chamber, in Wednesday’s election. The party campaigned on a ‘Netherlands first’ ticket, with its charismatic veteran leader Geert Wilders focusing on drastically reducing immigration, tackling the cost-of-living crisis and opposing the incumbent government’s “hysterical” plans to reduce carbon emissions.
But although Wilders largely ignored the pension reform during his campaign, the PVV is also a staunch opponent of the new pension law which cements a move from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) pensions.
While New Social Contract (NSC), the other big winner of the election that is also critical of the pension changes, wants to change the law to make it easier to grandfather accruals, the PVV is more radical and wants to scrap it altogether.
“We will reverse the irresponsible and extremely uncertain new pension law and introduce a real actuarial interest rate. This will enable quicker indexation, prevent unnecessary pension cuts and restore confidence in our pension system,” the party wrote in its electoral manifesto.
PVV and NSC together will have 57 seats in the new parliament. Add to this the seats of other parties that oppose the pension reform in their electoral manifestos (Farmers’ Party BBB with seven seats, the Socialist Party with five seats and several other small parties with a combined seven seats), and there’s a narrow majority of 76 seats against the switch to a DC system.
Support for the DC switch has been eroding fast: when parliament approved the pension law in December 2022, it did so with a two-thirds majority.
This does not necessarily mean, however, that parliament will now try to block the law, which came into force on 1 July 2023. The seven parties in question, which range from far-right to far-left, will most likely not form a coalition together.
The coalition that currently looks most likely is one of centre-right VVD, one of the architects of the pension reform, NSC and PVV. Even if these three parties find a compromise to rewrite the law, this would have to then be approved by the Senate.
But parties that support the pension transition continue to have a majority in this Chamber, which was elected in May this year.
That the two big winners of Wednesday election, PVV and NSC, will be able to reform the pension law is therefore far from certain. What is sure, though, is that this Damocles sword will hang above the pension sector’s head for the foreseeable future.