This week was less hectic than last, but still plenty of things are happening.
There are two main items this week: the fall-out of the austerity agreement, and the CDA leadership election. But first, a sad anniversary.
Today it’s exactly 10 years ago that Pim Fortuyn was murdered by a crazed animal-rights activist. As so many Dutch, I remember exactly where I was when I heard: I was ordering some falafel in a take-away near my house, when the radio said the election campaigns were suspended out of respect for the victim. “What the hell?” I thought, “which victim?” and it took about ten minutes before it became clear that Fortuyn was in fact murdered.
Today there was some attention in the press, with De Volkskrant re-running the famous 2002 interview in which Fortuyn attacked Islam. See also this NRC article, where the famous debate after the March 2002 local elections is embedded. Here Fortuyn destroyed the Purple parties while courting CDA leader Balkenende, and it was considered a watershed.
However, Geert Wilders, who is Fortuyn’s political heir, was entirely silent on the subject. Odd.
The results of the austerity agreement and the revival of the Kunduz-coalition proceed more or less as expected. D66, GL, and the CU are taking the lion’s share of the praise, and they attack the PvdA for being too rigid to join the coalition. This is an especially important point for GL leader Sap, who stands to lose most in case her voters dislike the agreement. The other parties, including CDA and VVD, broadly agree.
Now the parties on the left attack the CDA for flip-flopping. First the CDA defended Wilders’s toys, like forbidding burkas and double nationality, and now CDA interior minister Spies suddenly announces she won’t defend them any more.
Nobody has the slightest doubt that the CDA is very glad it can turn away from these issues, but it’s still being attacked for defending them in the first place while the old coalition was still in power. The CDA defends itself by pointing out the exigencies of coalition: sometimes you have to defend something that’s not your own idea, or wish, because you’ve reached an agreement with your partners. That’s true, but still it’s the CDA that’s most vulnerable here because it sits in any sort of coalition, and thus flip-flops most.
So far the VVD is keeping a low profile, leaving the other parties to fight it out. On the whole this is a sensible decision. Of the three parties of the old coalition, the VVD is least tarnished by the fall of government. Only now it becomes apparent to me how cleverly Rutte has managed to make the main fights during his government take place between CDA and PVV, with the VVD smiling in the middle. The VVD is still roughly at the 31 seats it won last time, and that’s not bad at all.
The PvdA is once again in trouble. It’s the main loser of the austerity agreement: everybody feels it should have been involved, but was too rigid and unyielding when the time came to be flexible in negotiations. This is nothing new: I’ve heard one (communist) MP from the sixties and seventies complain about this very issue. The miracle is that the PvdA has a solid block of voters left.
The SP and the smaller parties survived unscathed. They had little to do with the agreement, since nobody expected them to participate. The SP is too left-wing, the small parties too small. Still, this means that the SP can yet again pick up a few seats from the PvdA.
And Wilders? He’s ... managing. Some expected him to lose a lot of voters when he dropped government, but so far that isn’t really happening. Wilders’s actions of the last weeks were primarily aimed at his own voters, and once again he seems to have understood them better than anyone else. He’s lost any chance of being in the next coalition, but that’s fine: the PVV is a natural opposition party, anyway.
Last week’s polls clearly showed gain for four of the five parties, with the VVD being the exception. The voters still like the fact that they came to an agreement. PvdA once again loses to SP, and that’s pretty much it.
No doubt we’ll be in for a lot of change in the next few weeks, but so far the voters are unsure in which direction they’ll jump. And last week was a holiday week, which doesn’t help.
The party that’s going to be in the news for the next month is the CDA. For the first time the christian-democrats will hold an open election for the party leadership. Meanwhile the candidacies are in, and no less than twelve people will run for leader. The best-known of them is current parliamentary leader Van Haersma Buma, but interior minister Spies also runs, as does agriculture secretary of state Bleker (a right-winger who’s made several gaffes over the past years), interim manager Wintels (the main outsider candidate), and several less well known people.
The missing candidate is finance minister De Jager, who already was one of the most popular CDA politicians but is also credited with the austerity agreement, where he negotiated as the government representative and shared in the wave of goodwill. Party chairwoman Peetoom asked him to become a candidate, but he refused — as he has several times already.
On Monday the party will announce which of the twelve candidates are actually accepted (a murky process that frankly I didn’t know was going to take place until I read about it today), and then there will be several public debates. CDA members may vote until 18th of May, and if there’s no candidate with a majority a run-off round will be held between the two best-scoring candidates that will end on 1st of June. So that’s the latest date by which we’ll know who will lead the CDA for at least the next few years.
But for today’s real political news we’ll have to look to France, which elects a president, and Greece and the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which elect parliaments:
No doubt the results of France and Schleswig-Holstein will influence Dutch politics somewhat. The battle lines for and against austerity are being drawn here, too, while pollster Maurice de Hond announced that the Dutch Pirate Party is hovering near one seat (as is, by the way, PVV dissident Brinkman’s OBP). If the Pirate Party actually does win a seat in any of the polls I will properly introduce it to my readers.
<— A spectacular week | Party profile — OBP —>
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.