In consensus democracies, like the Netherlands, there is a limited room for opposition, as Andeweg et al. (2008) have argued. The core idea of a consensus democracy is that political leaders work together in an 'elite cartel'. As Andeweg et al. (2008) observe -as Andeweg (2000) predicted earlier-, populist parties may develop in response to this elite cartel. These parties voice a radical opposition against the consensus politics of the established parties. In the Netherlands the 'citizens' revolt' against the elite cartel came in the form of List Pim Fortuyn (De Vries and Van der Lubben 2004), which entered the Dutch government in 2002, Dutch politics has never been calm again. The effect of this and other populist parties on the dynamic between coalition and opposition in consensus systems, like the Netherlands, has not been analyzed in detail. The economic crisis that has affected European countries may have created an additional impetus for traditional consensus politics of cooperation and populist contestation of austerity policies.
It is the goal of this study to see how opposition parties behave in a consensus democracy. We will assess how Dutch opposition parties vote in parliament and whether we can distinguish between more radical and more cooperative strategies; as well as look at their use of scrutiny tools by opposition parties. We look at the Netherlands as a prime example of a consensus democracy, between 1998 and 2012. Our study identifies 2002 (the entry of a radical right-wing populist party) and 2008 (the start of the financial crisis) as crucial moments.