Both Peil.nl and the Politieke Barometer have published new polls, and I’ve added them to the polls page.
For the first time, the VVD is the second-largest party in both polls, being 3 or 1 seat larger than the CDA, respectively.
This is no coincidence. Over the past few weeks or so, both parties have been at work to cast the elections as a traditional left vs. right race, with the economy and its problems as the main issue. The VVD calls for a right-wing solution, the PvdA for a more-or-less left-wing solution.
Now tactically there’s a lot to say for this series of moves. Basically the plan seems to be for party leaders Cohen and Rutte to snipe at each other and highlight their differences while mostly ignoring the CDA. Both have meanwhile denounced the CDA election programme as neither flesh nor fish, a bit of state and a bit of market, but no true solution to the country’s needs.
Thus, they seem to succesfully cast Balkenende and the CDA as wishy-washy centrists who are unable to choose between the two opposing viewpoints. Since this is a perfect thumbnail sketch of christian-democracy in general, it strikes a note with the voters, especially because everybody’s gotten really sick and tired of the christians, and of Balkenende in particular.
Seat-wise, the gamble seems to pay off, too. The VVD is shooting up in the polls; especially in the Politieke Barometer where it won seven seats in the past two weeks. As to the PvdA, it isn’t really moving, but the seats the right has won from the left in the past few weeks are drawn exclusively from the smaller left-wing parties, and not from the PvdA.
That brings us to the other notable trend: the right is now clearly larger than the left, with VVD+CDA+PVV exactly at the magic 76-seat point even in my dampened-down poll averages. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a right-wing government is inevitable. VVD and CDA still need Wilders for a majority, and it is totally unclear whether Wilders is willing to enter the coalition, and, if so, whether the other parties want him.
Wilders has announced he’s willing to support a VVD+CDA minority government, but that is just not a proper solution in Dutch constitutional law: a government is supposed to be directly supported by a majority in parliament, and a minority government like the Danes have is just not an option.
Which brings us back to the complicated question of coalitions, and allows us to note that the CDA, despite (temporarily?) being the third party, it actually stands to gain from the current situation when it comes to ruling the country.
The more PvdA and VVD polarise, the likelier it becomes that we’ll have the CDA in government.
After all, if PvdA and VVD cast the elections as a traditional left vs. right race, it doesn’t make much sense for them to forget their differences after the elections and combine with D66 to form a Purple coalition. Either PvdA or VVD enters government, and stamps it as solidly left- or right-wing. However, both need the CDA plus at least one more party for a majority.
Currently my averages give centre-left PvdA+CDA+D66 72 seats, and centre-right VVD+CDA+D66 71. Add a fourth party, most likely GL, to the mix, and they have a majority and the country a government.
Or will D66 be able to broker a deal between social-democrats and liberals? They did that in 1994, but the situation is much more complicated than that now. Back then liberalism was on the rise globally and the VVD could quite easily place its stamp on the Purple government, with the PvdA in ideological confusion.
That’s not the case right now, the current crisis will likely show a noticeable revival of the left, and I do not think the VVD will agree to reinforce a moderate-left government, which would leave it vulnerable to its closest competitors, CDA and PVV.
On the other hand, the PVV is still espousing a crazy mix of left-wing and right-wing talking points, which might not leave it in the best position to attack the VVD for being too moderate. The CDA could hold the better cards here, but it’s an absolutely lousy opposition party.
So, although the likelihood of a Purple coalition has diminished somewhat, it’s not entirely out of the question. It mostly depends on what the VVD wants: execute its programme, or once again join a grand coalition to kick the christian-democrats out of power.
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This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.