Small fry, 2 March
Frankly, not a lot has happened this week, which is the penultimate one before the 15 March elections. Still, here are some recent developments; none of them game-changing, but they may be of interest to political observers.
- We’ve had a whole slew of new polls this week (with the final one coming up tomorrow), and they agree primarily on not agreeing with one another. For a moment it seemed that the SP, of all parties, was going to profit from Sunday’s debate, but only two out of four polls gave the socialists a modest gain. The others showed nothing.
The only effect Sunday’s debate might have had is a modest gain of the left block as a whole. I have always believed that the unusually bad left-wing polling result is caused mostly by floating left-wing voters who haven’t made up their minds yet. It could be that they’re coming home, although they don’t agree on exactly what “home” is. SP and PvdA seem to profit a tad more than GL and D66, but that’s mostly because the former two parties have more undecided potential than the latter two.
- Wilders’s campaign remains weird. He decided to return to the campaign track after a week-long break due to an officer of his security detail being arrested. (He doesn’t appear to have been in genuine danger.)
Still, his staying away from most debates except for the last two, and his general unavailability to the Dutch press (as opposed to the foreign press) is weird and potentially counterproductive. Dutch voters like to see their party leaders woo them for their votes, and although Wilders’s voters are a bit outside the mainstream, the polls confirm that he is slowly sliding down. Although his hard-core followers won’t care where he is or who he debates, he won’t win over floating voters by staying away — that’s for sure.
- Speaking of sliding down: 50Plus is doing a lot of that as well. The party for angry entitled elderly had a disastrous last week, and this week may have been lighter on bad news, but heavier on slides down the poll ladder (essentially from 10 down to 6 seats). The most important tidbit here is that its voters don’t seem to move over to one specific party — the PvdA most of them come from, or the PVV most of them like. Instead, they’re spreading around the political spectrum.
- Peil.nl has a useful coalition preference overview. Although all coalitions have a higher unfavourability than favourability, the least disliked one with -12% favourability is the centre-left option (CDA + the four left parties). The most likely post-election coalition, centre-right VVD+CDA+D66+GL, scores slightly worse with -20%, and a right-wing one with the PVV scores -38%. (As usual in these polls, there are also a few weird and unlikely coalitions mentioned.)
Interestingly, among CDA and VVD voters the centre-right option scored in the positive, while the right-wing coalition scored negatively. Thus, centre-right voters want a centre-right government. That sounds obvious, but they could have gone for hard-right as well. Not this year, though, with Trump and May and other hard-right idiots dominating the world news.
D66 voters, too, prefer centre-right. Although the centre-left coalition is in the positive among Democrats, the centre-right one is seen much more positively.
Peil also measured coalition favourability of invidivual parties. Naturally voters look favourably on their own party entering the coalition (>90% favourable), but PvdA, VVD, and GL voters love D66 as well. CDA voters are only 20% favourable minus unfavourable.
Nobody particularly likes the PVV; only CDA and SP voters reward it with a smaller than -60% unfavourability.
The least favourable party, however, is DENK, which reaches a -94% favourability score among all voters.
- I said it before and I’ll say it again: if Dutch voters don’t make up their minds, if they continue to require at least four parties for a stable government, we’ll have new elections in 2018. It is useful to look at party leaders’ behaviour after the elections through that lens.
Even a VVD+CDA+D66+GL coalition would be shaky at best; essentially at the mercy of four party leaders. In that context, would Rutte want to become prime minister once more? Or any of the others, for that matter? Do the parties want to become formal coalition members? It’s very uncertain.
The last time we had a five-party coalition was in 1973 with the Den Uyl government. However, back then two coalition parties were already in merger negotiations (leading to the CDA in 1977), and it was expected that the other three would eventually merge as well. (That never happened.)
Even further back we had plenty of four- and five-party governments, but they were always dominated by the three christian parties that always cooperated anyway and would later form the CDA.
So in that respect a four-party coalition would be something genuinely new in Dutch politics. All the more reason to assume it will rest on shakier grounds than any of the governments in the past fifty years. And both politicians and party leaders know as much.
- A D66 member of Provincial States said that Wilders is pining for a terrorist attack on Holland. Although that is certainly true in the sense that it would help Wilders a lot, actually saying so out loud is something else entirely. Party leader Pechtold distanced himself from the remark, and the member in question apologised.
- When the Trump administration withdrew support from worldwide organisation offering safe abortions, development minister Ploumen (PvdA) immediately announced that the Dutch government was willing to cough up part of the 600 million dollar shortfall, and to find other countries and organisations to do the same. Belgium and Canada responded favourably, and it turns out that Sweden and Denmark are also in. Today Ploumen gave a press conference with a Swedish, Danish, and Belgian minister reiterating their support for safe abortion, and announcing 181 million dollars have already been assigned to the project. (It’s not clear to me if that includes the Canadian share.)
This likely won’t have a lot of influence on the election (any left-wing minister, and even a few right-wing ones, would have responded similarly), but it’s still a nice feather in the PvdA’s cap.
- Speaking of the PvdA, yesterday the King’s Commissioner (governor) of the northern province of Drenthe resigned because he was found to have given a company owned by his sister-in-law a contract worth no less than 3,000 euros. (Yes, that’s three thousand. There’s not a lot of money in Dutch politics, not even for the corrupt.) This is a minor annoyance to the PvdA, but this, too, is unlikely to influence the elections much.
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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
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