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 left-wing SP.
The SP is about to emerge as the major party on the left after a protracted struggle with a PvdA that moved to the centre in the Purple period (1994-2002). After the PvdA had made itself impossible by eagerly embracing free-market fundamentalism, the SP steadily gained seats, booked a major victory in 2006 that it was unable to capitalise on, fell back in 2010, and is now poised for victory.
Led by the charismatic Jan Marijnissen from the early eighties to 2008, the party initially had trouble finding a new party leader. Agnes Kant turned out not to be right choice, and just before the 2010 elections she was replaced by Emile Roemer, who kept the 2010 defeat limited. Meanwhile he has become one of the most highly-regarded politicians, and although the right is against his prime-ministership as a matter of general principle, the man himself has few detractors.
The SP has an important trump card in Roemer, and is certain it will end up in the government coalition this time. In fact, it seems likely Roemer will be the next prime minister.
(Incidentally, there’s a rumour that Roemer doesn’t speak English. That is a source of shame for any Dutchman, but especially for a future prime minister. One hopes he speaks at least one other foreign language.)
The 2010 profile gives more details about the SP’s history as a maoist party that gradually became mainstream and less extreme.
I still count the SP as a protest party, and its campaign so far definitely has its protesty moments. Recently Roemer said that, with him as prime minister, the country would disregard any European budget rule. Predictably, he was attacked by most of the political centre, led by D66, and he backtracked a bit.
This was obviously an attempt to lure PVV voters to another protest party, and as such it might even succeed. The SP is playing a careful balancing game between protest party and traditional compromise party, and of course the protesty bit comes in before the elections, and the compromise after.
So t’s extremely unlikely the SP will continue this harsh line, because it wouldn’t be able to find coalition partners (except for the PVV). In other words, I expect the SP to become a lot more compromise-minded after the elections.
Being harsh now has its disadvantages — some moderate voters will surely turn to other parties, and other parties may be less forgiving after the elections. I’m especially thinking of D66 here.
But for now the strategy will work in making the SP the second-largest party at least, and possibly the largest.
The SP’s outlook is rosy. As I said before it has succesfully instigated a prime-minister race against the VVD, which will help it draw voters from PvdA and GL, and once the elections are over it has a far better chance to form a coalition than the VVD. So Roemer is quite likely to become the next prime minister.
The only way of stopping him is a grand coalition of PvdA, CDA, VVD, and D66, but that coalition has its own dangers: the difference between the catch-all parties will become meaningless in the eye of the voters, and they’ll all lose seats come the next elections. So I don’t expect this to happen.
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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.