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Elections in the Netherlands (again)

 
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 06:20 pm
I've read several different accounts of him. Much was made of the contradictions -- openly gay conservative, etc. I do think he was seen as vaguely Jesse Ventura-ish (more so than Perot), but maybe that was just the bald pates (and fondness for feather boas... Wink)
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 06:24 pm
Canajun, yes, but members of the Dutch-Canadian Entertainment Club in the 1970's (anything to get a discount on flights on KLM)! Nahhhh, not quite that simple. Interested in politics, interested in the world, perhaps a slightly higher than average interest in the Netherlands. I am the girl [nerd alert nerd alert] who taught herself Dutch through short-wave radio lessons, after all.

I'd say my perspective on Fortuyn was that he was a right-wing extremist who somehow turned himself into a popular favourite - I'm still trying to figure out what that tells me about the Netherlands. I've only recently put it together with the right-wing populists in France. Definitely more to understand about what's going on in Europe.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 06:25 pm
and don't me making it tooooooo easy for us - we're here to learn.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 06:29 pm
littlek wrote:
There's nothing like a friend's effort and expertise to get me interested in regional history. Just ask my Slovak housemate.


cool! will you open a thread on last year's slovak elections then? i wrote a whole third of my thesis (in '99/'00) on slovakia's politics and majority-minority relations, but have been shamefully lax in following developments since - partly, of course, b/c developments in my own country (always torturously boring and self-satisfied in comparison with the very fundamental issues always played out in central/eastern europe) suddenly turned all existential.

must admit that that had a profound effect on my own political self-positioning, too. i was always on the left, but on the other hand ten years of eastern europe studies made me a convinced anti-communist. and as i focused mostly on east european politics, left-right seemed hardly the main or essential divide. there, in most cases, a class of populist, nationalist, centralist and often corrupt politicians was pitted against seemingly more scrupulous, liberal, intellectual and ethnically tolerant counterparts. the latter always had my sympathy, even if they usually espoused an out and out free market ideology. in slovakia, the party traditionally most 'enlightened' on nationality issues is the democratic party (DS) - which, considering its thatcherite economic convictions, would be in the far right corner in holland!

so, though we were in the same party here, my father and i would always have fierce discussions, about, say, whether communism was equally bad as fascism, or whether the dutch (etc) left had been naive in its views on relations with the soviets in the eighties, or whether anyone who still dared defend cuba was simply a bad person. i was pitted on the right in such discussions, of course.

now, all that seems trivial. the onslaught of what i see as fearful and short-sighted heartlessness in dutch politics has moved me much further to the left. you really feel like it's come to be time to choose. for the first time in my life (i was always at perfect ease as an armchair observer), i've become active in the campaign, on a day to day basis. these are strange times.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 06:36 pm
Good to hear you've come active!

Actually, I've learned more about chechnya of late because of the fighting there with the Russian military. Very interesting take my housemate has that no newspaper here is covering. I am learning, but slowly, about Slovakia. Not enough to write a summary of events even.

But, perhaps Dasha could be persuaded to join the conversation....
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 06:59 pm
sozobe wrote:
I'm fascinated by the whole "separate but equal" aspect of the pillars -- what if a Catholic girl and Protestant boy happened to catch a glimpse of each other somewhere and fell in love? How rigid were the boundaries? Are there still echoes? (There must be...)


The boundaries were pretty darn rigid. It is an old Dutch expression that "[when there's] two religions on a pillow, the devil will sleep between them".

It is (for me) hard to say exactly when the system was at its high-point. This century, for much of the intra-pillar-organisation came with the possibilities of modernity. Their own radio and TV stations were great avenues of community control, the electronic equivalent of the priest on his pulpit. Universal suffrage allowed each of the three 'pillars' to acquire the political clout to entrench the system - in the 19th century, politics still had meant the patronisation by liberal and protestant elites - who are still i think subsconsciously most identified (or most identify themselves) with the symbols of the dutch nation. They are the most "orangist" (royalist) for example.

Example: the royal family is protestant. Period - until recently. Just one generation ago, a princess who wanted to marry a (Catholic) Spanish nobleman was more or less forced to renounce her rights as a royal, and continue her life as an ordinary citizen - at all costs, it was to be avoided that a Catholic would ever get to the throne. That was in the - sixties?

But last year, the Crown Prince married an Argentinian lady - Catholic and <gasp> not of nobility. There was no protest. They were wedded in an interconfessional ceremony, I believe (I must have been one of 10% Dutchmen not watching, I was at the filmfestival - the only time any tickets could still be obtained Wink. Only the small orthodox (or fundamentalist, what you want) protestant parties SGP and Christian Union asked whether she could not convert, but they have only 4% of the vote.

So yeh, almost all of that is gone. Secularisation was drastic, here. And of the "red family" led by the Labour party little was left after the eighties too, much more so even than in Germany or France. (Regret or nostalgia about that was part of what took the Socialist Party, a Maoist splinter with 0,4% of the vote until way into the eighties) into the mainstream and up to 15% in the polls - kinda like what happened with the Trotskyites and their Laguillere in France).
0 Replies
 
Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 07:03 pm
We heard about the murder of that politician in Oz. As for the current election, didn't even know it was on.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 08:06 pm
sozobe wrote:
I've read several different accounts of him. Much was made of the contradictions -- openly gay conservative, etc. I do think he was seen as vaguely Jesse Ventura-ish (more so than Perot), but maybe that was just the bald pates (and fondness for feather boas... Wink)


<grins>

Well, that might be the better comparison, in any case, whether on style or on - typology ... a populist with a confrontative style and radical points of view, without any of the latter being easily peg-able in either the far-right or far-left corner.

That is, Pim Fortuyn was, to my view, pretty one-dimensionally right-wing, combining collectivist views on nation and culture with libertarian views on the economy. But many Dutchmen will be angry when you pigeonhole him like that. They've got two points. One is that he was very unorthodox, having no truck with any of the traditional right-wing ideology - no God or King about his Country - and being pretty inclusive in his choice of friends - the List Fortuyn eventually broke historical records in bringing in parliamentarians and members of government of immigrant origin (!). Two is that half of his voters came straight from the Labour Party, urban working-class folk, and though they loved his tirades against bureaucracy, on economic points they would lean left. When the List Fortuyn started collapsing polls showed that, though most of its voters moved to the Christian Democrats, the radical-left Socialist Party came in a good third.

I was thinking about that, last night, when a big TV show presented the latest polls about various issues. The point is, an ample majority of the Dutch at this time seem to think left on the economy, income differentiation, even taxes - but right on foreigners and law&order. In this respect they must have a hellish choice now, b/c their sympathies are not reflected in the party system. Instead, party politics moved all the way back to full frontal left-right polarisation in these post-Fortuyn days.

----

Because I owe y'all the remaining part of the story.

After Fortuyn was murdered, a near-riot shook the Parliament Square, and all parties suspended their election campaign activities, though the elections themselves took place, at the specific request of the List Fortuyn. Opinion polls were suspended, too, so the results were to be a total surprise.

In the meantime, "silent marches" in the main cities paid tribute to Pim, and his funeral, directly before the elections, became an immense event, as the funeral procession, broadcast live on TV, took his coffin past hundreds of thousands of mourners in his hometown Rotterdam, in what was essentially a silent mega-protest. Against "purple", against "old politics", against the left - all of whom had "let" [or even made] this happen to their very own new-found hero, who had spoken their mind, forcefully, without ever ceasing to be their endearing "Pimmetje" (literally "little Pim").

As it turned out many subsequently did vote List Fortuyn in anger - but many more opted for the "safe haven" of Jan-Peter Balkenende of the Christian Democrats - who had carefully avoided attacking Fortuyn throughout the campaign while keeping a centrist course himself. You can see the 'up' in the green line just before "TK02" on http://home.wanadoo.nl/anepiphany/opinie02.html.

Balkenende got the votes of everyone who was afraid of chaos - both the people who shied away from a Fortuynist vote at the last moment and those who sought an unblemished counterweight of stability against the expected Fortuynist landslide. The parties that had attacked Fortuyn most fiercely were gutted, Labour especially. On the far left, for example, the Greens - who had distinguished themselves in debate with Fortuyn and had done well in the polls doing so - lost 1 out of 3 votes the polls had promised them those last few days, while the Socialist Party, which had kept more aloof, came out unexpectedly high.

A government was swiftly formed, with Balkenende as PM, the List Fortuyn, and the VVD - which was to transform itself (back), in breathtaking speed, from the enlightened liberal free-market party of the purple government to an aggresively populist conservative free-market party. The government program was, to Dutch standards, extremely radical - compare the effect of the Republicans "Contract with America" (did I get that right?) in 1994.

But the List Fortuyn quickly brought the government in trouble, from the moment on when they couldn't find enough people to be minister for their party for an embarassingly long time. Endless squabbling, political gaffes, reckless rhetorics, repeated changes of party leader and split-offs in parliament ... When in the end the two LPF deputy prime ministers refused to talk to each other anymore and also both refused to resign - even though their own party by then was demanding them to - CDA and VVD "pulled the plug" and the government fell, after a record-short term. It was no coincidence that this happened at the very moment that these two parties reached a majority by themselves in the opinion polls (see the graph).

After that, the plan was simple: CDA and VVD would sail into an election victory, while the demoralised Labour party was still regrouping. The LPF would sink into insignificance, and on the still scattered left the question would merely be whether the Socialist Party would succeed in taking over from Labour as the main force. See the graph again (http://home.wanadoo.nl/anepiphany/opinie02.html) to note that until the very beginning of the new year, this is exactly what we seemed to be heading for.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 08:08 pm
nimh wrote:
the top graph on http://home.wanadoo.nl/anepiphany/opinie02.html - it's an overview of what the opinion polls have been saying, the numbers on the left are percentage points.


no-ooo ... Embarrassed .... SEATS (total=150), not %age points ... Embarrassed sorry ..

Hi Wilso!! Haven't seen you since that (related, really) thread you had on the Australian 'climate' on foreigners & asylum-seekers on Abuzz, *great* thread! Glad to meet you again. Have you been in any danger with the fires there?!
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 08:24 pm
what are the w#'s ?
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 08:42 pm
ehBeth wrote:
what are the w#'s ?

Week.

I.e., last year the election campaign started ahead of the local elections (in week 10), and continued straight through to the national ones in week 20 = May 15; the government fell in week 42 (that was, like, October), new elections are in week 4 of the new year = this wednesday!
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 08:44 pm
i think i get it


what i saw as .................... w1
............................................. 9


is really w 19 !
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 09:00 pm
ehBeth wrote:
i think i get it


what i saw as .................... w1
............................................. 9


is really w 19 !

yup! <nods>
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 09:11 pm
i thought there was some peculiarly Nederlandse record-keeping happening! week 1, sub 9 ? d'oh! week 19. the graphs make a lot more sense now that i'm not trying to over-analyse them.
0 Replies
 
Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Jan, 2003 11:47 pm
I'm rather isolated from the fires. 400 homes and 4 lives lost in Canberra yesterday in a blaze they described as "the perfect fire". The consensus is that 10 000 fire fighters would have been powerless to prevent what occured.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 02:55 am
Glad to hear such, Wilso!

Since we are one of the neighbouring countries of The Netherlands (the state where I live in has more than 300 km's border with The Netherlands), I think, I can share nimh's opininion.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 07:36 pm
Last year has changed this country - in that sense the spirit of Fortuyn lives on (or keeps on spooking us).

One way is that, though Fortuyn is no longer there, everybody speaks Fortuynish now. That relativates any outcome of the election: say, 45% of the electorate (as opposed to 35% last time round) votes its agreement with what left-wing politicians say in the current political discourse - that may seem like a swing (back) to the left, as if the pre-Fortuyn days, when the left also had 45%, were back - but they are not. Because the discourse itself has turned Fortuynic. So everybody only talks of integration, immigration, law & order and bureaucracy, over and over again. The Labour Party's Wouter Bos, too. So basically, you have 45% voting the left half of a right-wing field, say, a left half still to the right of where the entire field used to be yesteryear.

That on an abstract and depressed line of thought.

But another way - concrete and cheerful - in which the Fortuyn-year, and the way politics have been reshaped since, have changed is the immense interest. Today were the elections. Yesterday night was the final debate on TV, between the 6 main leaders. Three million people watched - on a full population (from toddlers to the very old) of 15 million. That's more than last year even, and twice as much as at the "final debates" in 1998, 1994. Turnout today was higher still than last year immediately after Pim's death. Detail: the best known on-line voting test (answer 30 questions and it says with which party's programme you agree most) was visited two million times, and was down part of the day today b/c of being overloaded. Everybody talks politics now, everywhere, when in the nineties only a rather excentric elite dared to show and express interest.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 10:02 pm
The results are in, by the way.

They show some drastic changes again.

Which changes - depends totally on what previous point in time you compare with.

Two ways to look at it.

See http://home.wanadoo.nl/anepiphany/elections-results.htm for the figures.

In comparison with the election results last year, the outcome seems clear: the List Fortuyn (LPF) has collapsed, its voters have mostly (re)turned to the Labour Party. It's almost a net sum.

This, however, is mere appearance. In fact, the voters who have turned their back on the LPF often stayed home this time (24%), or turned, in first place, to the Christian Democrats (18%) or the VVD (14%), only in third instance to Labour (10%). Seems that most of the voters Labour lost to the Fortuynists last year, have stayed on the right side of the field.

The great gains Labour made this year instead came from the Green Left and, in first place, the Christian Democrats. The Christian Democrats lost as many of its own voters - often churchgoers, religious but/and committed to social policy, development aid and care for asylum-seekers - to Labour as they won, with their new tough course, from the LPF.

So it's more like a Great Exchange of support bases than a simple ebb and flow between, say, Labour and LPF.

You can see this very clearly by adding the opinion polls from just before the campaign erupted to the equation. Note the gains/losses since then, and the net sum seems a wholly different one.

The Labour Party, or rather, its leader Wouter Bos, has fought a ferociously successful election campaign for his party. In a first TV debate, he was so clearly the winner that he won votes in the polls from left and right. From then on, the talk was of a duel: the Christian-Democrats, who had made continuation of a right-wing government with the VVD their main stake, versus Wouter Bos' new & improved Labour. Left vs right - the one chance to turn the tide. From then on, Bos started mobiling more and more votes - from the left, that is, and skyrocketed in the polls by "sucking dry", if you will, the radical left parties, the Socialist Party in particular. Labour +14, Socialists and Green Left -12.

Thus, the drastic shifts have taken place in two phases. During the Balkenende government and after its fall, the left as a whole gradually recovered, in which process the Socialist Party functioned as a "traffic island" - both for Fortuyn-supporters moving back left and for former Labour voters looking for a vibrant alternative to their party. The day-to-day presence of the SP leader Marijnissen on TV-shows late last year brought left-wing issues and arguments back into the public and media discourse, I think, making them seem acceptable again, and in so doing taking the left out of the corner it was hiding in after May last year and creating a sense of momentum again. Then when the right person came along to take over as new leader of the Labour party, Wouter Bos (voted such in party primaries) could capitalise on that revived sense of momentum, and use it in the struggle in which he pitted himself against Balkenende in a personal duel.

The strategy weakened, unexpectedly, a little at the very last moment, on the last day. The final debate last night played a role probably, Bos didn't do so well, Green Left leader Femke Halsema did better. Some of those who were going to strategically vote Labour to make Bos the winner in numbers apparently thought again and stuck with the Green Left or the Democrats '66. Others at the last moment crossed over to Balkenende's Christian Democrats. And the Fortuynists did better than had been predicted in the last polls, thanks perhaps to a last-minute PR campaign, perhaps to the fact that many LPF-voters won't admit to their choice to a pollster, 'coming out' only in the voting booth.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 11:07 pm
Hi Walter, Guessing is okay! We do it here in the states all the time, and I'm sure you do the same in Germany. Let's see how close you can get. c.i.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Jan, 2003 01:55 am
Too late, c.i. :wink:
0 Replies
 
 

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