At first, it seemed that the opposition would win the elections. But if the Reformed Political Party (SGP) supports the ruling parties, the latter may still get the majority needed in the Senate, and state secretary Halbe Zijlstra can go ahead with his plans.
'We are going to examine the issue very critically', said Marleen Barth, the number one on the list of the Labour Party (PvdA) for the Senate. She makes no qualms that she is against the study fine. According to her, the ruling VVD party does not in fact support this either, and she sees a chance for 'a nice partnership'.
Tofik Dibi of the GreenLeft party also named the cabinet's study delay regulation as something which the senate will put a spoke in the wheels of. 'The coalition will have to be open for negotiations with the opposition', he said.
Initially, the coalition parties appeared to have to settle for 35 seats: not enough for a majority, even if the SGP comes to the rescue. But as the evening advanced, the results seemed to look up for the government: 37 seats in the preliminary count. Including the SGP will give a majority of 38 seats. Even the 50Plus party for the elderly led by Jan Nagel has won one seat. But this party has not made known its stand concerning higher education.
Caution is essential here, because these are elections in which the citizens choose provincial councillors who will on 23 May cast their votes for the Senate. The results then can therefore differ from the election results of yesterday, if, for example, someone casts an invalid vote or there are dissidents among the provincial CDA and VVD members.
Majority or otherwise, it is not yet certain if state secretary Halbe Zijlstra can manage to get his plans in time through the Lower House and the Senate. Time is running out as the new academic year will begin soon, and the Senate usually takes its time to review a new law. If he should miss the deadline, then the increase in tuition fees for long-term students could only be implemented a year later.