There will be general elections next March, and the dozen-plus-a-few Dutch parties are preparing for them. It’s time for another series of party profiles. We’ll go in order from small to large according to the August 2020 polls.
Today we’ll continue with the lower-class-based narrow-nationalist Islam-bashing PVV led by Geert Wilders.
As always, the PVV is Geert Wilders and Geert Wilders is the PVV. The PVV still has only two members, Geert Wilders and the Geert Wilders Foundation, therefore does not count as a political party and does not get government subsidies. Instead, its money streams are hazy as usual.
Since the 2017 elections Wilders has competition on the right flank in the form of the FvD led by Baudet. The FvD entry discussed the differences between the two parties in detail. See also the 2010 and 2012 PVV profiles I wrote.
Wilders has one advantage on Baudet on the European level: he has been part of the extreme right Eurosceptic movement for a long time. Extremist leaders such as Le Pen in France and Salvini in Italy consider Wilders one of them, and Wilders will likely use these connections to his advantage — as long as anti-EU voters feel membership of a strong pan-European network is important.
Another huge strength of the PVV is that there are no leadership elections. The leader is known and will not quit.
During the 2017 elections Wilders followed a curious strategy of invisibility. He refused to participate in most debates, did not talk to the press, and generally relied on his hardcore supporters turning out anyway. Whether he succeeded depends on your definition of success. The PVV won 5 seats relative to 2012, 15 to 20, but did not top its 2010 record of 24 seats, or unseat the VVD as the country’s largest party. 20 seats was disappointing relative to the polls up until about six months before the elections. Still, it was once more the second party in the country.
Wilders has also remained mum about the FvD, and here, I think, he is actually following a shrewd policy. Drawing attention to the FvD in the 2017 campaign would just have strengthened that party, and this more or less holds true today as well. Besides, knowing the usual fate of right-wing parties, Wilders likely assumed the FvD would run into internal trouble sooner or later, with massive egos fighting for attention. (In contrast, the PVV allows but for one single massive ego.)
Iniitially this policy appeared to fail. The FvD claarly won the 2019 provincial and European elections. In fact, the PVV lost all its European seats (though meanwhile it got one back due to the redivision of the UK seats after Brexit). Still, these elections are secondary; Dutch voters consider the national elections for parliament by far more important, and will think more carefully before casting their votes.
In the end, though, Wilders got what he wanted: the FvD ran into problems earlier this year, and in the most recent polls the PVV is growing slightly, while the new national-conservatives are declining a bit.
The big question is if Wilders and Baudet are going to attack each other viciously during the campaign, or that they decide there’s more to be won by ignoring each other.
Right now this is unclear, as is so much about the weird upcoming Corona-infused campaign. It’s worth repeating, though, that there are only a limited number of populist seats available. As usual, I point to the 28-seat maximum the populists reached back in 2002. So far that number has not been exceeded. Will it in 2021, with the Corona in the near-past at best?
During the worst of the Corona crisis the VVD got a decent rally-round-the-flag bonus of about 12-15 seats. About half of those came from the populists, which to me means that some populist voters are fine with a protest vote in normal times, but prefer a sensible party in times of crisis. Meanwhile a few of these seats are flowing back to the PVV, though not to the FvD.
Wilders (like Baudet) has been consistent only in his criticism of government. During the early crisis Rutte did not do enough; we should have all kinds of draconic policies in place like right now! Once the worst was over, however, Rutte was too slow in reverting the lockdown. No doubt some voters’ underbellies feel represented by this behaviour, but it doesn’t make the PVV (or FvD) a reliable government party.
Speaking of the Corona crisis, it will be interesting to see how Wilders treats the financial and social-economic consequences. A hard-right story about letting companies fall over and individuals reposition themselves? Or more leftist ideas around financial support for people and a softer hand? Wilders himself is hard right, but many of his voters prefer a welfare-state-oriented centrist-to-left approach, since they stand to gain from it. Wilders will probably do a bit of both, bash a few muslims for good measure, and assume his electoral position is safe. And maybe he’ll even be right.
On the whole I see the PVV staying in place after the 2021 elections. It may win or lose a few seats, but it will likely remain the largest extreme-right party in parliament. VVD and especially CDA will continue to refuse to form a coalition with Wilders. Then again, shouting from the opposition is what Wilders does best, and it is what his voters expect from him.
<— Party profiles — PvdA | Party profiles — CDA —>
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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