The PvdA leadership race

An hour ago it became official: vice-prime-minister and Social Affairs minister Asscher has entered the race for the PvdA leadership. In itself this is the least-surprising political announcement of the year; everybody expected Asscher to challenge current party leader Samsom, and now the battle can finally begin.

PvdA members will have from 24th of November to 8th of December to vote for their party leaders — and the PvdA started a membership campaign that offers new members the vote, too. In the past these actions have not been extremely successful, but who knows. We’ll know who’s going to be the PvdA leader in about 8 weeks.

Anyway, Samsom and Asscher are the main candidates, and the problem, as I said before is that there isn’t all that much difference between the two. Both are implicated in the Rutte II government with the VVD, and with the PvdA’s accomodation of right-wing hobbies. To be fair: the usual counter-argument is that without the PvdA in government, the right would have been even more able to execute its agenda — which could be true.

Still, both Samsom and Asscher are bound to Rutte II, and are thus seen as part of the PvdA’s right wing, or at the very least the centre. Thus, a left-wing challenge is almost inevitable — and that’s exactly what happened.

You may remember that Rotterdam mayor Aboutaleb considered a bid, and that it was well received in the polls. He also stated that he would not run against Samsom, and he has been true to his word. Still, last week a third candidate suddenly applied: Jacques Monasch, a PvdA MP of middling reputation (not quite a back-bencher, but not really a front-bencher, either). He considers himself part of the PvdA left wing and penned an op-ed to call for understanding former left-wing voters that have gone over to the right because the left was too focused on multiculturalism, minorities, and other cultural issues that didn’t resonate with the old, lower-class base. Quite apart from the merits of his argument, this is a clear attempt to steer the PvdA to the conservative left wing where the SP currently resides.

In addition to this call, Monasch made a shrewd political move. He announced that, if he became party leader, and if the PvdA would grow enough to take the initiative in government formation, he would not become prime minister. Instead, he would nominate a big-city mayor like Amsterdam’s Van der Laan or Rotterdam’s Aboutaleb. Van der Laan immediately responded he was not interested. Aboutaleb ... did not.

Will this interesting twist save Monasch’s candidacy? It’s impossible to tell right now; polls have been taken, but only on the Samsom-Asscher battle. One poll saw Samsom winning; the other put its money on Asscher. It’s quite tricky to poll about 50,000 PvdA members, about half of whom may not take the trouble to vote.

In any case, PvdA members have one more week to announce themselves. On 24th of October candidacies will close, followed by a month of campagining and then the vote starting on 24th of November.

I’ll keep you posted.

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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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