New parties and their success

All polls agree that 50Plus will enter parliament after the elections, though they disagree on its exact number of seats: 1, 2, or even 3. In addition, thinks the Pirate Party is going to win one seat, although the other pollsters don’t agree.

In this entry we’ll take a closer look at new parties in parliament, and discover three rules:

  1. New parties generally win more than one seat.
  2. Pollsters never miss a new party: if a party gets 0 seats in the polls, it gets 0 seats in parliament.
  3. The opposite is not true: pollsters frequently give seats to parties who don’t win any.

Number of seats

Below is a table with all new parties that entered parliament since 1956, when the number of seats was increased to 150. In the middle column are the parties that won more than one seat, in the right column the parties that won one seat.

Parties that look like this were not succesful. Here I define succesful as staying in parliament for at least two more elections after the inital one.

The 1956, 1977, 1986, 1998, 2003, and 2010 elections brought no new parties into parliament and are not included the table.

New parties in parliament
1959 PSP 2 -
1963 BP 3 GPV 1
1967 D66 7 -
1971 DS70 8
1972 - RKPN 1
1981 RPF 2 -
1982 - CP 1
1989 - CD 1
1994 AOV 6
SP 2
Unie55 1
2002 LPF 26
LN 2
2006 PVV 9
PvdD 2
Cases 13 6
Success 9 1

In total 19 new parties have entered parliament since 1956; 6 with one seat and 13 with more than one. Although the sample size is not very large, we can state with some degree of confidence that the majority of new parties starts with two or more seats.

In addition, the success rate for 1-seaters is disastrous: of the six parties, only vrijgemaakt-Gereformeerde GPV (now merged into the CU) was succesful according to my definition. All other parties were gone from parliament within two elections of their initial success.

In contrast, of the 13 larger new parties only 4 were unsuccesful. This number includes blockbuster LPF (List Pim Fortuyn) that dominated the 2002 elections but quickly fell apart for lack of a leader — Fortuyn having been murdered just before the 2002 elections. It disappeared silently in 2006 and thus does not meet my success criterion.

DS70 just barely qualifies for success: although it remained a minor power in the 1972 elections with 6 seats, it just barely made the threshold in 1977 with one single seat.

As to PVV and PvdD: they’ll certainly return after the next elections, which will be their third. So they’re succesful.

The difference between one and two seats

Thus we see that there’s a world of difference between one and two seats. One seat is truly marginal: possibly it’s caused by a fluke, and in any case the party hasn’t developed significant rapport with a segment of the Dutch electorate.

That changes with two seats (i.e. about 130,000 votes). Then it clearly represents something that Dutch voters feel attracted to — enough voters to become a stable, though small, factor in parliament.

It seems likely that 50Plus will win two seats — possibly even more. If it does, it’s likely to become a stable factor in Dutch politics for at least a few elections. If it wins only one seat, though, it’s slated for quick removal and will basically have failed.

Pollster errors

What about pollster errors? Do pollsters ever predict seats for new parties that don’t get them, or no seats for parties that do get them?

I only have data from 1998 on, which can be found at the bottom of the polls page. A clear pattern emerges.

  1. Every election there’s at least one pollster who gives seats to a party that doesn’t make it into parliament.
  2. Pollsters never miss a party; i.e. give zero seats to a party that does make it into parliament.

In fact, in 2002 and 2006 all pollsters agreed that the newcomers (LPF and LN in 2002; PVV and PvdD in 2006) would win seats. They disagreed on the number of seats, and seriously underestimated the PVV (as they did again in 2010), but the bare fact that these parties would make it into parliament was clear well before the elections.

Of course the fact that a new party shows up in the polls matters a lot. Dutch voters don’t particularly like to waste their votes on very small parties that won’t make it into parliament, so even though they might be sympathetic to a tiny party they’ll only vote for it if there’s a decent chance it’ll make it — if it’s polling one or more seats, in other words.

The Pirate Party

This is not good news for the Pirate Party. Its single seat in is not enough: all pollsters have to agree the Pirates are going to make it into parliament, and that’s currently not the case.

I think the 2012 elections will be for the Pirate Party what the 2003 elections were for animal-rights PvdD: the election where, though they don’t win a seat, they show that they are a growing force. Let’s call it 30- to 40,000 votes — too few for a seat (that needs about 65,000), but many more than a tiny party usually gets.

Then in the next elections people sympathetic to the Pirates will remember, and decide to cast their vote for them. That’s what happened with the PvdD: surprisingly strong showing in 2003, though no seats; in 2006 two seats and success.

So the Pirates will have to wait for the next elections, but then they’ll win at least two seats and go on to success — probably.

<— Party profile — SP | Polls, polls, polls —>

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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