When it rains, it pours. Wilders is getting himself into more and more problems. He denied having done anything wrong. Still, defections are continuing and the VVD now also turns away from the PVV.
First, an update on the defections. Two provincial States members from the northern province of Friesland have joined the exodus, but on the other hand the newly-elected PVV fraction in the Almere city council seems to be hedging its options.
Also, it seems that Stassen, the PVV leader in European parliament who defected late last week, was not slated to appear on the PVV list for the upcoming European elections (22 May). So she didn’t have any ships to burn: they were burned for her. Finally MP Van Klaveren, who also left last week, seems to be disenchanted not with Wilders’s view on Moroccans but on economics: he is against the left-wing populist track the PVV is on when it comes to the welfare state, and this is the reason he wants to found a new right-wing party.
In other words: despite appearances, this is still an internal party revolt against Wilders’s eminent position of power and the lack of possibilities to push alternative viewpoints. Although Wilders’s anti-Moroccan slogans form a good excuse to leave the party, they were not the core issue. (Anyone who thinks the PVV has never been against Moroccan immigrants has not been paying attention for the last eight years.)
The press now speculates on an LPF scenario. Back in 2002, Pim Fortuyn’s LPF won a spectacular 26 seats, but Fortuyn himself was murdered and the other LPF members turned out to be more interested in fighting each other than anything else. The Balkenende I government, which included LPF, fell after only 87 days due to this infighting, which extended to cabinet itself.
From day one Wilders’s prime worry was to prevent such a scenario, which is the bane of all extreme-right parties. He succeeded admirably so far, and I’m wondering if the current defections are comparable to the LPF twelve years ago. True, he’s losing elected representatives, but there is no actual infighting. All defectors are unhappy with their leader for one reason or another, but not with each other. This is a revolt, and not incompetence.
Next hurtful bit of news. The VVD has definitively closed the door on cooperation in a new coalition. Up until the local elections it was the only party not to have done so, and in my view that was a wise policy. Creating a cordon sanitaire around Wilders, like the Belgian parties have done around extreme-right (and Flemish nationalist) VB doesn’t work in the short run: they’ve been around for ages exactly because their voters feel marginalized anyway and don’t mind voting for a marginalized party.
But anyway, the VVD changed its mind. Part of the reason is the spectacular gains of the other liberal party, D66. It truly seems D66 has found its way into the hearts and minds of centrist VVD voters, and D66 has always been an outspoken Wilders opponent. Thus, the VVD has no other recourse but to exclude Wilders as well or risk draining its left flank. That means that of the national parties only the SGP has not excluded him (and possibly 50Plus, but I’m not sure about that). Wilders’s chances of entering a new coalition anywhere are nil.
Also, the PvdA announced it will henceforth automatically vote against any PVV proposal. This is likely to help Wilders: the PvdA is the Great Enemy, and Wilders can easily cast this as one more bit of persecution. In general, the left-wing parties, and PvdA and GL in particular, are more interested in grand-standing for their own electorate than actually doing something useful.
Wilders himself was silent for two days, but gave a press conference yesterday. He denied having done anything wrong, and accused the left wing, newspapers, judiciary, and whatnot of conspiring against him. The usual, in other words.
It seems that he assumed his current voters agree with his anti-Moroccan sentiments, and a first poll tends to support this. 85% of the 2012 PVV voters support Wilders, although of those who didn’t vote PVV in 2012 but might do so in the next elections, only 38% does.
And what about the polls? The last Peil.nl poll is the first one to be conducted after the local elections, and it shows the PVV falling from 27 to 22 seats, with these seats mostly going to D66 and CDA. We’ll have to see if the other polls confirm this trend, but it’s not good.
Still, let’s not write off Wilders too soon. He’s a very canny politician, and although this is a serious setback, he may still know his voters’ minds better than anyone else.
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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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