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 extreme-right PVV, Geert Wilders’s party.
The PVV is Geert Wilders. Other PVV politicians make the news every now and then, but they don’t matter. The PVV will stand or fall with Wilders.
After the 2010 elections Wilders got the perfect deal: he would support the VVD+CDA Rutte government without taking part himself, and without requirement to vote with government on a fairly long list of issues. Thus he could continue to profile himself as the right-wing man in Dutch politics without being bound by complex deals with VVD and CDA, but with the added cachet of being more-or-less in government. Perfect.
See the 2010 profile for extensive background on Wilders.
Early this year Wilders made a series of miscalculations, starting with his decision to switch from bashing Moroccans to bashing Eastern Europeans who came here to steal our jobs (and never mind that they generally take the jobs Dutch feel too good for). Also, he started to emphasise his anti-Europeanism, culminating in his campaign promise to remove the Netherlands from the European Union and the euro, and the lazy, spendthrift Greeks be damned.
In January he even attacked the Queen for wearing a headscarf when she entered a mosque during a state visit to Oman, but this was a serious error, with parties and people from left to right lining up to defend the Majesty.
Finally, in April, he walked out of austerity budget consultations with VVD and CDA, leaving prime minister Rutte little choice but to offer his resignation and prepare new elections. It’s unclear to me what Wilders thought to achieve here: his poll numbers since April haven’t exactly tanked, but there is a clear downward trend.
Besides, there’s the matter of simplicity. Individually, all of Wilders’s actions this year are useful for attracting angry, older, male, white right-wing voters, but the resulting party programme is a lot less clear than “Down with Islam,” and that may confuse Wilders voters, whose intellectual capacity isn’t overwhelming to begin with.
Worse, where in the 2010 campaign Wilders concentrated on attacking the PvdA because it’s the party his voters hate most, in the single 2012 debate he appeared in so far he attacked Rutte’s VVD and Roemer’s SP, largely ignoring Samsom’s PvdA.
From a strictly electoral perspective this is correct: fellow right-wing party VVD and fellow protest party SP are the PVV’s most serious competitors. Still, because of that the average PVV voter doesn’t hate these parties. And if he attacks Rutte and Roemer too harshly his voters might even discover some sympathy for them.
Currently the polls give Wilders about 16 to 19 seats. It’s worth remembering that this was the same number the final polls in the 2010 campaign gave him, but instead he won 24.
The same may happen this year, and in that case, even though it hasn’t grown the PVV remains a powerful force in Dutch politics. On the other hand, he may also significantly under-perform and end up with 12 to 15 seats.
The problem is that the PVV electorate is very hard to measure. Some supporters don’t want to own up to voting PVV, and even among those who do there’s always the question of turnout: will an angry, low-education voter with a penchant for cheering Wilders actually bother to go to the voting booth to actually vote for the man? So far the answer has been a resounding Yes, but that could change any time.
Maybe Wilders is losing part of his magic, which would mean part of his followers just stay home and he drops to well below his polling average. Maybe nothing special is going on and he’ll score about 24 seats again. Hell, maybe he’ll actually win 16 to 19 seats. It’s completely unpredictable.
As to coalitions: Wilders doesn’t have a chance of a snowball in hell to be in the next government, or even to support one. Just today he suggested a VVD+SP+PVV coalition, which is laughable. This shows that he’s run out of options now that he’s betrayed the only coalition possibility for him: with VVD and CDA.
So opposition it is for Wilders. One thing is certain: he’ll be loud about it.
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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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