Party leaders, moves to the flanks, and Europe

Sorry for the long silence; I’ve been very busy first, very lazy afterwards. But here’s a quick round-up of what’s happened in the past few weeks.

Party leadership: CDA and GL

Van Haersma Buma has been elected CDA party leader. Surprisingly, he got 51% of the vote in the first round, against 26% for “outsider” Mona Keijzer. Thus a second round was not necessary.

Surprisingly, we’ll also get a GL party leader election. Everybody assumed current party leader Sap would keep the job, but MP Tofik Dibi, of Moroccan descent and fairly well-known for a backbencher, announced his intent to run for party leader, too.

This took GL completely by surprise. It seems nobody had counted on a second candidate. First Dibi was attacked for announcing his intent openly, then the party leadership promised an election, and then the candidate committee declared that Dibi was not suited to become leader. After a storm of protests the party leadership reiterated its promise of an election. Meanwhile it turns out that two other people had applied for the party leadership, but were both rejected by the committee.

This is not good. The CDA is shown to have more internal democracy than GL, and it was clear that everybody was completely unprepared for the possibility of a second candidate. Obviously the party leadership wanted to appoint Sap silently, but that failed.

Meanwhile polls suggest that Sap is still supported by about 75% of the GL members, but the damage has been done. GL has dropped to a historic low of 4 seats in the last Peil.nl poll. We’ll have to see if Sap (or possibly Dibi) can restore confidence in the party.

Move to the flanks

A while back prime minister and VVD party leader Rutte opened the attack on Wilders by pointing out that a vote on the PVV is a lost vote: whatever else happens, Wilders won’t end up even near government.

Today PvdA party leader Samsom announced he wanted to become prime minister, and he didn’t mind a coalition with the SP at all. He followed up by some attacks on the Kunduz coalition that made the austerity agreement possible. Thus the PvdA reiterates its desire to move left, although I still wonder if Samsom is the right man for this job.

Still, we finally see the correct reaction against the extreme parties by both VVD and PvdA: move somewhat toward the flanks in the hope of recapturing lost voters. So far it’s not really clear that the new strategy is working: the VVD is dropping slightly, while the PvdA holds stable but with less seats than the SP.

Europe

The current hot potato is the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM. This new fund will hold a lot of ready money that can be used to bail out banks or countries. The Netherlands is supposed to give 4.6 billion euros straight away, and a guarantee for another 35 billion in case it’s needed.

It’s clear that the ESM will pass parliament. VVD, CDA, PvdA, D66 and GL are all in favour, and that gives the ESM 102 out of 150 seats. The anti-Europe parties are against: SP, PVV, CU, SGP, and PvdD. This clearly shows who’s where, and also that while the PvdA is moving leftward it still remains pro-Europe.

Which reminds me: I have a new theory. As far as I can see Europe and austerity are one and the same thing in the minds of many voters. Europe currently uses its transnational power to enforce austerity, but that might change, and it might separate the debates about European vs. national power, and austerity vs. stimulus. I think that would be very healthy, and might even convince some SP and PVV voters (and anti-Europe voters in other countries) that Europe isn’t necessarily evil.

I’m expecting the European leadership to take a turn toward stimulus, mostly spurred on by the new French president Hollande. Germany will object, but the German policies of the last years show neither vision nor results, so Merkel will be in big trouble. She singularly failed to rise to the occasion of the gravest crisis in her term in office, and will pay the price later on.

Micro news

To return to Dutch politics at its most narrow: the 50Plus party is in trouble. One of its senators accused the two most important leaders of incompetence, cronyism and what not. So far there’s now follow-up to this news, but it could spell trouble.

Right now 50Plus holds two seats in my average of the polling, but that’s because Peil.nl has gone very annoying and introduced an “Other party” category, which currently holds two seats. I’m assuming both of them go to 50Plus, since one seat for either Brinkman or the Pirates would be big news, but I’m not toally sure.

Peil.nl, please restore the exact party scores. No “others.” The situation is complicated enough as it is.

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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.

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