The Dutch nine-to-twelve-party system is sometimes hard to understand for foreigners; especially when the small parties come into play. Therefore, just like in 2010, I’m running a mini-series that treats all eleven parties that stand a decent chance of winning seats. We’ll go from smallest to largest.
Today we’ll continue with the oldest party in the country: orthodox Gereformeerde SGP.
The SGP is a very orthodox protestant party that rejects liberal fripperies such as gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion, but also TV, women in politics, and doing anything but worship on Sundays (even its website is closed).
It was founded in 1918 and won its first seat in 1922. It has been represented in parliament ever since, but gained some influence on government only in 2011.
The 2010 profile contains a more detailed look at the SGP’s orthodoxy.
Although the SGP appears to have been very stable, even static, over the last century, historian Ewout Klei argues it has changed quite a bit in the last two years. Basically, where catholicism used to be the the SGP’s ultimate enemy, it has now been replaced by Islam, and to a lesser extent by secularism. This firmly aligns the SGP with Wilders, and it has transformed into an enthusiastic political participant on the conservative side.
In parliament the SGP can generally be relied on to support government. This is not new — the SGP has always tended to support government if it could reasonably do so — but support has become slightly more formalised recently. Besides the two SGP members neatly balance out the two left-wing CDA members who might stop supporting government, and with a 76-seat majority every seat counts.
The SGP’s traditional alliance with somewhat-less-orthodox CU has been broken. In the 2011 provincial elections the SGP refused the customary orthodox-protestant list combination, which led to a dramatic loss in Senate seats: the two parties went from five to three.
VVD, PVV, and CDA won 37 seats in the Senate, one too few for a majority. The sole SGP senator was quick to promise support, and as a result the SGP now has more influence with government than in the previous ninety-three years of its existence.
Thus the SGP has firmly aligned itself with the right-wing coalition.
The question is whether it also wants to appeal to other right-wing voters besides its traditional ones. Some conservative protestant voters will certainly consider the SGP, but will find some of its standpoints too orthodox. If the SGP would slightly moderate its theological tenets it might win more voters, and thus even an extra seat.
The next sign the SGP is moderating will be the first, though.
The SGP’s fortunes will wax and wane with the right-wing coalition, and especially with Wilders. Thus, any other coalition will mean return to opposition for the SGP.
Will it ever be asked to formally participate in government? I’d say it will not. When you can keep Wilders out of government (not that he minded), you can certainly keep a small, even more extremist party out.
Its number of seats will not be influenced by all this tribulations, though. In the next elections it will win two seats — whatever some of the current polls may say.
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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.