Elections in the Netherlands (again)

Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 04:26 pm
One thing you have to give our PM, Jan-Peter Balkenende, credit for: political courage.

Yesterday saw the ceremonial presentation of the first annual budget of the new government, formed last spring (a ceremony that involves the Queen being driven around The Hague in "the Golden Carriage" and then delivering a government-authored speech to parliament).

To just give a taste of what the budget and speech announced: this is what the main Dutch morning newspapers headlined about it today.

De Telegraaf (populist) wrote:

Algemeen Dagblad (MOR) wrote:
Sweeping cuts dismissed as "indecent and hopeless

De Volkskrant (progressive) wrote:
According to Balkenende, recession necessitates tough budget cuts, but critics call it anti-social policy and number fetishism

Trouw (Christian) wrote:
Employees, whether old or sick, will have to keep working no matter what

Utrechts Nieuwsblad (local) wrote:
Hot autumn for Balkenende II
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Reply Wed 17 Sep, 2003 06:05 pm
nimh...I would certainly admire a leader with "political courage." Maybe the US will get one someday. I couldn't get the links to your newspapers to load. -rjb-
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Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2003 04:07 am
realjohnboy wrote:
nimh...I would certainly admire a leader with "political courage." Maybe the US will get one someday. I couldn't get the links to your newspapers to load. -rjb-

no links - i translated the headlines as they appeared in the (paper versions of) the newspapers yesterday.

I dunno about Bush and political courage, actually ... I mean, concerning Balkenende i was of course being half-sarcastic: he apparently has the political courage to drive through a whole bunch of radical policies even when a GREAT many people disagree with them (and I'm among them). You can well say the same about Bush - the radical (reckless) course he's been steering in domestic and foreign policy may not be sensible, may even be dangerous, but it does show political courage, for better or for worse, to go against world and expert opinion like that.
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Reply Tue 23 Sep, 2003 07:28 pm
And on it goes ...

The new budget turns out to be as unpopular as the journalists had expected. A small-scale demonstration against the Christian Democrat/VVD/Democrat government in Amsterdam, that was expected to attract 10,000, attracted 20,000 instead. (I was out there blowing up and sharing out balloons Very Happy). And the opinion polls just keep on getting more devastating.

For example, last time I wrote:

nimh wrote:
[F]or the first time in several years, the left-wing parties have more seats in the polls than the right-wing parties - and they have it in both regularly published polls.

This is very rare. The only time in Dutch political history the "left" ever gained half the seats in national parliamentary elections was in 1998, when right-wing and left-wing parties each came to 75 seats.

Of course, 'the left' is as virtual a construction as the poll figures themselves, as it includes a broad sweep from the populist Socialist Party to the ever centrist (small) Democrat party - parties which aren't likely to ever work together.

Well, by now the Left has half of the seats in the polls even without counting the centrist Democrats, which, as junior partner in this government, hardly fit the category anymore. Just Labour, Greens and Socialists together (Rot-Gruen or La Gauche Plurielle, if you will). That is something, veteran pollster Maurice d'Hondt noted, he hadnt ever seen since he started doing this back in the 1980s. Totally un-Dutch.

Thats why I'm going on about them, actually - not because they have any direct political import (no elections on the horizon any time soon), but just because they are so ... remarkable. I mean, just over a year ago, the Left was at a record low of post-war times, at some 33% altogether, 28% without the Democrats. And now this. With the Democrats they're at 54% now, without at 50%.

A feckle post-modern electorate, we have nowadays. In a country where up until ten years ago, it was spectacular if a party lost 6% of the vote after four years, we now have parties halving, then doubling in size again every other year. Every two, three weeks now I expect the current surge up for the left parties to curve off at some natural ceiling - and then it doesnt.

Below the latest update on the (average) of opinion polls, again - the vertical lines you see still denote, from left to right, respectively: the general elections of 1998 (thats why there's a break in the graph to its right); the local elections of March 2002; the general elections of May 2003; the fall of the Christian-Democrat/List Fortuyn/VVD government autumn last year; the general elections of January 2003; and the forming of the new Christian-Democrat/VVD/Democrat government.

Per category and possible coalition (in no of seats, out of 150):


Per political party (in no of seats, out of 150):

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Reply Tue 9 Dec, 2003 09:47 pm
Don't ask me how I got there (I don't remember), but I was heartened to find out that the National Review Online actually spent quite some attention to the whole Pim Fortuyn saga, last year.

His rise, his murder, the suggested responsibility for his murder of the Leftists that had supposedly "demonised" him, the election results, the track record of the outgoing (in NRO's terminology, "left-wing") 'purple' government - it's all there, in surprising detail. If it's not covered in full-length articles such as, "Murder in Holland - Pim Fortuyn, Martyr" (May 7), "Extreme?" (May 9), "Giulianizing Holland" (May 16 2002) or "On Tiptoe Through the Tulips - Why Holland is nervous — and an alarming case for the entire West", it's covered in one of a great many notes on the matter in their "The Corner on NRO" blog. They even had an editorial on the case, "A Murder and Taboos". Much of it is by a guy called Rod Dreher, but not all.

Of course it's all from an angle very different from how most foreign media looked at the Fortuyn spectacle - and I sure as hell dont agree with most of their takes. But that really kinda only makes it more interesting - and it does seem like the most consistent, in-depth reporting on the episode I've seen thus far in the English-language press.

There's lots of highly disagreeable stuff there (in my view, in any case) - ranging from somewhat hysterical assertions about the Dutch (and European) "hard left", to which they count the Socialdemocrats, to their passionate abhorrence of multiculturalism in general - and the threat of "the Islamic reconquista of Europe" in particular. Or, specifically, their seemingly unquestioning acceptance of the truth of what "the voice of the street" is quoted as saying ("We see "foreign" adults and elderly, hanging out on park benches, doing nothing, shooting the breeze, all day! And we bicycle off to our eight-hour workday, so we get our paycheck and can pay our bills and taxes"!)

But there's some keen enough insights in there as well. Such as the dissection of differences between the various far right parties in Europe: "The 73-year-old Le Pen carried the baggage of a French Right tainted by Algerian violence and by Vichy. Economically, he was also an old-fashioned French statist. Fortuyn, in most of his beliefs, was a lefty libertarian. He supported drug legalization and euthanasia, two popular Dutch nostrums; he was an ostentatiously out homosexual." The fact that they are fairly apologetic about Le Pen, nevertheless, too, doesnt reflect very well on them, but at least they've got the right end of the stick when noting that the only thing that connects these people is their resistance to immigration. And whereas we here tend to mostly think -- 'see, thats what the far right's voter appeal comes down to, in the end, regardless of any other programmatic window-dressing' -- NRO suggests that it's the other way around: any party that brings up immigration like they do is automatically set away as "far right" - disregarding how wholly different they are in every other respect. Fair enough.

Of course, the whole episode seriously challenges the NRO writers. They like Fortuyn because of his free-market challenge to the "ossified" economic structures, for his attack on the 'left-wing establishment', and quite specifically and passionately, for his dire warnings about the 'dangers of Islam'. But on the other hand, "Dutch conservatism is weak tea", they warn their readers, and indeed, their readers do have some trouble embracing this new icon of the Right abroad. After all, as Dreher remarks when he finds himself forced to defend why he'd been sympathetic to Fortuyn at least until he read that Pim had been all too 'tolerant' about "man-boy love":

--- "Readers want to know basically this: "OK, so the fact that Pim Fortuyn was a promiscuous homosexual who supported abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs and legalized prostitution wouldn't have been enough to keep you from voting for him, but the fact that he was sympathetic to pederasty would have been? Aren't those other things pretty horrible too?" ---

He thus finds himself forced to argue along 'mayor-in-wartime' lines that, "My answer [is,] of course they are, but as I understand it, there's no realistic possibility in Holland's decadent culture that legislators will roll back any of those things." (Heh).

Most interesting, in that particular respect, is the way another NRO writer, John O'Sullivan, uses the Fortuyn case to sketch a Conservative future that must be quite different from what the regular NRO reader will feel comfortable with, in what is perhaps the most interesting article of the lot: "Death of an "Extremist" - The assassination of Pim Fortuyn should make us think hard".

"Old political orthodoxies are breaking down and new political alliances are being formed", he starts, to then remark on the emergence of "such things as liberal nationalisms and nationalist liberalisms". Such things are of course nothing new - thats what liberalism was like in the 19th century, too - but the writer takes heart in its revival, in as much as it gets to pit itself against "orthodox multicultural liberal opinion".

Now it may be a little ironic to see the NRO seemingly defend "human-rights liberalism" as a "Western invention" that needs to be defended "against the puritanism of the growing Muslim minority". After all, when it comes to the very things Fortuyn was supposedly defending against that Muslim minority - if they were to be debated in the US, the NRO would most probably find itself arguing the same case those Muslims are arguing here. (In fact O'Sullivan notes that, until 9/11, "there were signs that the religious Right in the U.S. might join with Muslims in the defense of traditional morality against a secularizing state").

But when different planes of self-identifications cross or conflict, some may be more important than others, I guess (or he could just be a commentator with a libertarian streak). And he sketches an interesting vista when noting that, "these nationalist strains of liberalism [..] are pushing four electoral groups — feminists, gays, Jews, and the proletariat — away from their traditional left allegiance toward new allies on the right". After all, each of these groups sees its own interests - the feminists and gays their newly acquired freedoms, the proletariat its jobs, the Jews their safety - threatened by the newly imported Muslim influence.

"Can an alliance of gays, feminists, nationalists, libertarians, blue-collar workers, and religious voters be assembled in opposition to the multicultural establishment either in Europe or the U.S.?", he asks, and basically answers, yes. I think Sofia might like it ;-). Many other conservatives might not - but, as O'Sullivan wittily points out, "The Christian Right remains in the conservative coalition to give a welcome to the gays and feminists not dissimilar to that tendered by Europeans to another boatload of asylum-seekers".

Oh - about that Fortuyn defense of "man-boy love". I must admit I'd never heard of that before, but NRO links to a quite detailed article in The Scotsman. Dunno how to appraise the info there, exactly. But that article does manage to, in conclusion, tie an interesting observation to the almost child-like naivite that speaks from Fortuyn's remarks on his own childhood sexual encounters (which he describes in positive terms):

"Van Engelen said: "The problem with Pim Fortuyn was that he never grew up. In his mind he stayed a little boy. A lot of Dutch men recognised that. That's what made him so popular, among other things."
<nods - remembering the ubiquitous terms of endearment for "Pimmetje" (lit: little Pim), the teddybears and flowers left at his commemoration places like they would have been left at a child's grave, etc).
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 10 Dec, 2003 01:59 am
Thanks for these addtions, nimhetje :wink:
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Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2004 09:14 am
No new elections for a while, but I thought I'd keep you entertained with an anecdote.

Because the prize for ass of the month, this month goes to ... Rob Oudkerk, city alderman in Amsterdam for the Labour Party.

One evening, he was, apparently, a little drunk, and was talking in a bar with a female columnist (also known, I think, for writing an erotic book). And, apparently, he was feeling in a boastful mood.

And thus, the next week, Amsterdam readers could read all about how Oudkerk often went to the hookers, perviewed porn on the computer he had in loan from the city at home, and used cocaine once a year.

Odd things to boast about, methinks.

He first denied everything, then admitted. The mayor then efficiently nipped the affair in the bud - but then his own party fired him. Mostly because he'd also talked about going to the "solicitation zone" (err, no English word for that, 'pparently) - thats where illegal prostitutes walk the street in a zone, on the edge of town, specifically assigned for that. As city alderman, Oudkerk was also responsible for solicitation-zone-policy. Ahem.

Oudkerk was a rising star in the Labour Party and had even been mentioned as possible new national party leader, when that post was vacant a year and a half ago. Now, I guess, he's dead.

Curious thing, though, is the public reaction to it all. Here's some opinion polling (from SBS6):

"It was right for van Royen to write down that information in her column."
Yes 48%, No 41%

"Reason for Oudkerk's candour to van Royen."
He was drunk 21%, He was trying to impreess her 39%, He was trying to get off with her 14%

"An Amsterdam alderman is allowed to visit prostitutes in his free time."
Yes 74%, No 22%.

"An Amsterdam alderman is allowed to visit porn sites on a city computer."
Yes 11%, No 86%

"An Amsterdam alderman is allowed to use cocaine once in a while."
Yes 17%, No 78%

"It is justified that much media attention is given to this affair."
Yes 36%, No 59%.

"Oudkerk should resign as alderman." (before he resigned)
Yes 30%, No 62%.

"It is right that the Labour Party sent Oudkerk off." (after he resigned)
Yes 49%, No 47% (Labour voters: Yes 40%, No 56%).

"It is a pity that Oudkerk is gone"
Yes 53%, No 29%

"Who bears most of the blame for Oudkerk's resignation?"
Oudkerk 48%, Van Royen 26%, the Labour Party 17%.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 21 Jan, 2004 10:37 am
There's an English article about this online in EXPATICA:

Alderman told off for viewing porn on work computer

followed today by this article:

Oudkerk hits back over sex scandal: I don't break

[In Harlow, Essex, UK a Liberal-Democrat was fired as well, because he viewed porn sites on the city council's computers. He said, he did so, because he wanted to demonstrate the wholes in the town's it-system.]
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Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 05:16 pm
Copy / paste from the "Following the European Union" thread:

As au's post already noted, the Netherlands are defying an EU ambargo by already releasing the [European] elections' results for our country tonight.

(I don't know what the EU is worried about - its not like some Czech voter is going to say, "Oh my god, I'd better vote Christian-Democrat, cause I just heard that in the Netherlands, they lost!", is it? Perhaps some day.)

Sooo ... here's what you've anxiously been waiting for! The preliminary results for the Netherlands.

First off, note that - in spite of all the talk of Euroscepticism - turnout was almost a full 10% higher than in 1999!

Second, the strange victory of one Paul van Buitenen and his "Transparent Europe". Van Buitenen was an EU civil servant who opened the book on some of the semi-corrupt money-squandering practices - they tried to fired him and now he is a politician! He might have picked up many of the former Fortuynists (in as far as they voted at all), but it's pretty non-political - I know that some of our (Green Left) voters went his way, too.

OK, the results, compared with the last European elections, back in 1999, and last year's national elections. Note that, since the turnout is still only roughly half of that in the national elections, that totally skews the results. (Low turnout tends to favour the Christian parties and the Greens and hurt Labour, the Socialists, liberals and Fortuynists. You can even see the difference in turnout between last time and this time impact the results - the Christian Union probably got about the same number of votes, but that amounted to 3% (and a seat) fewer this time.)

EU 2004 EU 1999 National 2003
Turnout 39,1% 29,9% 79,9%

Christian Democratic Appeal 24,5% 26,9% 28,6%
Labour Party 23,6% 20,1% 27,3%
PFD (right-wing liberal) 13,1% 19,7% 17,9%
Socialist Party 7,0% 5,0% 6,3%
List Pim Fortuyn 2,6% -- 5,7%
Green Left 7,4% 11,8% 5,1%
Democrats (liberal) 4,2% 5,8% 4,1%
Christian Union / SRP 5,9% 8,7% 3,7%
Party for the Animals 3,2% -- 0,5%
Transparent Europe 7,3% -- --
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Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 05:17 pm
(See also this post on the election slogans that were used for these elections ...)

The fact that the Christian Democrats actually did considerably worse than at the national elections last year, despite the low turnout which should have favoured them like it did in 1999 (when they polled 6-7% higher than in the national elections the year before) makes this a very bad result for them.

All the other established parties didn't do very well, but not spectacularly badly either. For my party, the Green Left, its not a very good result either, obviously - we're losing two of our four seats. Of course, it would be worse than in 1999, which was the GL's best result ever, and it's still better than last year's general election result - but taking into account that low turnout normally benefits us [loyal voters], we're basically stuck where we were last year.

In tonight's news, its the PFD thats portrayed as the biggest loser, by the way. The Christian-Democrats can after all still say they're again the biggest, whereas the PFD comes in a distant third (in the national polls they're neck-and-neck). Turnout again mostly explains this (in 1999, for example, the PFD was a lot bigger than the CDA but turnout turned the proportions around in the EU elections then too) -- but thats hard to get across in the soundbites. Suffice it to say they both did badly ;-)

If you compare the results with those of 1999, you see that the left has basically remained stable, overall - the Socialists and Labour winning what the Greens and Democrats lost - while the right-wing parties lost to newcomers Transparent Europe, Party for the Animals and List Fortuyn. In fact, the same holds pretty much true if you compare them to the national ones from last year. The Greens and Socialists compensate for what Labour lost, and the two main right-wing parties CDA and PFD again yield much ground to the smaller parties, Transparent Europe, Party for the Animals and Christian Union.

Thats bad and good news for the left. Good because it is a "yellow card" to the main government parties, CDA and PFD. But bad because apparently, the left has been unable to rally the protest vote itself.

(In fact, its probably more complicated than it looks because the left most likely did win many votes from the government parties, but in turn lost many to the newcomers ...)

One thing the results make clear is that the potential for a new, populist (if not necessarily right-wing) protest party is still substantial. This turn's "anti-parties", even if as harmless-sounding as Party for the Animals, in fact cornered almost as large a share of the vote as Pim Fortuyn did in the 2002 parliamentary elections.
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Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 08:35 pm
Walter, you had a couple typos in the command brackets of your second link ... all better now.

Great analysis, nimh ... I damned near understand. Europolitics have always baffled me. Your commentary clears away some of the fog, rendering the view from here a little less murky. Thanks.
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Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 05:18 pm
More about this Paul van Buitenen guy. (I confess he totally wasn't on my radar. I'd heard of him, knew he was running with a party of his own, a voter or two told me they were going to vote for him when I was flyering, that was it. I fully expected him to get zero point something percent.)

Now the take on him is that he drew the Eurosceptic vote, the protest vote - kinda like the UK Independence Party will be shown to have in England, once they publish the results there after the weekend. It makes sense: after all, the guy got famous for exposing scandals and corruption in the EU - he played Don Quichote, and won.

The comparison with Fortuyn was quickly made. After all, here's a guy who was snubbed by Big Politics, railed at it from the outside but wasnt taken entirely seriously, wrote a book - and won the elections (well, 7% of the vote, anyway). His score, like I also said, represents the same protest-vote potential that Fortuyn first revealed so drastically.

This is how the politicians took it, too. "Those are our voters", List Fortuyn-leader Mat Herben muttered to TV reporters, eyeing Van Buitenen's results. Van Aartsen, chair of the right-wing liberal PFD and one of those who's trying to steer the party further away from its past bourgeois liberalism, towards a more populist conservative course, took the occasion for some self-criticism: this shows we haven't been eurosceptic enough in the campaign. We should have been more outspoken.

But the comparison with Fortuyn is odd, in fact. First off, Fortuyn had very outspoken views about, well, practically everything. His ideological profile was strongly libertine, pro-market, anti-immigrant, anti-bureaucracy and anti-left. Van Buitenen has no such programme. I was browsing through his book today (hey - you get curious), and all of the numbered points in his chapter about running for European elections dealt with means to fight corruption and administrative abuse. There should be a central registration point. Guarantees for those who blow the whistle. Et cetera. Nothing about any other political issue.

There's more. It was up to the TV reviewer in my newspaper today to point out the obvious flaws. Van Buitenen has said himself several times that if you're against Europe, you should vote for the List Fortuyn, not him. (In fact, to sacrifice your job and position to fight abuses in the EU, you've got to actually care for it quite a bit.) Furthermore, until yesterday, van Buitenen was no media darling - the antipole of the ubiquitous Fortuyn, in fact. The highpoints of his campaign were an appearance in the Evangelical broadcaster's late-night talk show and a guest column on PBS's parliamentary affairs programme. Fortuyn was charismatic, sardonic and articulate, and derived visible pleasure from wrong-footing his rivals by being inconsistent with flair; Van Buitenen is, if anything, a dour man of principle. He looks like your neighbourhood pub's middle-aged snooker player and shrugged, on election night: "I have no handsome face and no money, but the message got across".

The TV reviewer suggested an analysis utterly counter to the politicians' newly perceived wisdom. Van Buitenen "did best in his West-Brabantic home region and in old, rich PFD-bulwarks like Zandvoort and Wassenaar", he points out. There, many old-school PFD voters "have had enough of the hard-as-nails xenophobia of the liberals, and opt for a basically positive attitude towards Europe, alongside vigilance against moneygrubbers."

Trip out. Interesting take. Well, one can hope.
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Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2004 06:02 pm
One last PS on van Buitenen. Perhaps there is a more outspoken - and rather unexpected - political background behind the one-issue election program after all. The centre-left, Christian newspaper Trouw had this:

In Brussels, van Buitenen takes Jesus as example

Paul van Buitenen, who was elected into the European Parliament yesterday [..] discovered European politics late. [..]

With politicians he'd already had much to do, but he'd kept his distance. When his political ambition did awake, he flirted with the Green Left, the Socialist Party (SP) and also the Christian Union. He had been member of the Flemish Green party and of the SP. "All in all, I should be in a radical Christian and socialist party, but there wasn't one", Van Buitenen writes in his book, The Trenches of Brussels. [..]

Van Buitenen no longer is content with exposing fraud, coruption and nepotism. He wants to change European politics. His example is Jesus Christ. He stood up for the poor and the weak, while He, in Van Buitenen's take, had nothing up with the power and meddling of the established order. [..]

In the way he recounts his years as whistleblower in the trenches of Brussels, he ever again shows his desire to once again go through life as an anonymous civil servant. This desire eventually brought him to the Breda city police, where he's been working in administrative services recently. There, for a while he had time for normal life and also for his ill wife. As a European politician he will have to forget about all that again.

A Christian Socialist, eh? That has been a while ... The Netherlands had some renowned, colourful Christian Socialists in the 1920s and 30s and the 19th century ... a long-dormant tradition. Wow. Wonder if all those PFD and List Fortuyn voters realised whom they voted in, this time around! ;-)
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Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2004 08:29 am
Back in June, I posted quite a bit about Paul van Buitenen, the former EU civil servant who outed some corruption and public finance waste affairs and got fired for it. He founded his own party, Europe Transparent, and won 7% of the vote in the European elections - and that's a lot for a new party in Holland.

The media were quick to make the comparison with that other outsider who appealed to populist resentment, Pim Fortuyn. "That's our voters", List Pim Fortuyn leader Mat Herben sulked, and right-wing PFD leader Van Aartsen noted that his party should have campaigned even more on its euroscepticism. But I already noted here that there might be an unexpected side to the story. The dour man of principle Van Buitenen did not just contrast starkly in style with Fortuyn, but also in beliefs, apparently: in an interview with Trouw he essentially called himself a radical Christian socialist. Noone had probably noticed this, since he'd won his election victory despite having received hardly any media coverage during the campaign.

Well, the September Green Left Magazine brings the news that Van Buitenen and his number two have joined the Green parliamentary Group in the European Parliament. That's cool, because it brings the number of Dutch Green delegates right back up to 4, after the Green Left lost 2 of its 4 own seats in the elections. It's also sneakily gratifying in a way, seeing how Van Buitenen did best in the upper-crust bulwarks of the right-wing liberal PFD, the 'party of the rich' ... heh. ;-)
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Reply Thu 14 Oct, 2004 12:13 pm
Two weeks ago there was a mass demonstration against the government policies for the new budget year - over 200,000 people came to Amsterdam, making it the largest demonstration in thirteen years.

The demo was mainly organised by the unions (both the christian and "general", socialdemocrat-leaning unions), though the opposition parties helped as well and Labour leader Wouter Bos for the first time took up a prolific role. (Last year, when the demo was much smaller, he was still relatively invisible, with most attention going to the Socialist and Green Left leaders).

It didn't do him any harm, according to the latest round of opinion polls. The Labour Party was greatly boosted, as was the Left as a whole. In fact, records are being shattered left and right - quite the feat considering the unprecedented crisis the Left was in just over two years ago, in Pim Fortuyn's heyday.

Bit of history: Dutch politics used to be extremely stable, thanks to the system of "pillarisation" that locked the respective protestant, catholic, socialist and liberal communities into unwavering loyalty to their own unions, parties, media and associations. From WW1 to the 60s, half the country would vote for one of the three Christian denominational parties. The other half would be split among the socialists and left- and right-wing liberals, with the "red" parties getting a quarter of the vote before WW2 and a third of the vote after.

The secularisation and "depillarisation" of the 60s changed all that but a new balance was quickly found. The newly merged Christian-Democrats would get one-third of the vote, Labour would get another third, while the rest would be equally divided among the right-wing liberals of the PFD and other parties.

This new balance came under pressure in the 90s when both Labour and Christian Democrats seemed to implode. One thing did not change though: the "red" and "green" parties (counting from Labour 'leftwards') never got over 40% of the vote. In fact, the Fortuyn insurgency beat them back to less than 30%.

All that makes the newest round of opinion polls rather revolutionary. Taking the average of two national polls, Labour now polls 37% by itself - more than it ever had in any national election. Amazingly, it is now bigger, in the virtual domain of the polls, than the three government parties - Christian-Democrats, PFD and Democrats - together. According to pollster Maurice de Hondt, this has never happened before in the history of polling.

Furthermore, unlike in other instances of Labour success, it is not the result of the party sucking the smaller parties to its left dry. To the contrary - the Socialists are at 9% or 14 seats in the polls, a win of 5 compared to last year's elections and the Green Left also polls favourably at 7% or 10 seats, a win of 2. All in all, this means that the left-wing parties together, even without counting the Democrats (which used to be considered centre-left until they joined this government), are at 79 seats or 53% of the vote. According to de Hondt, this again is the first time in the history of political polling in the Netherlands that such a thing happened.

Of course, all these gains are virtual still. There are no national elections in sight any time soon. All government parties are doing badly in the polls, so there is little incentive for any of them to break up the coalition and force new elections. They will probably stick together till the end of their term, which should be somewhere around January 2007 - over two more years to go. And recent history has shown that anything can happen here in two years nowadays.

One indication of what other things might happen still is the implosion of the right-wing liberal PFD last month, following the expellation of its most right-wing MP, Wilders. Wilders, who continually hammers on immigration, integration, asylum-seekers and the dangers of Islam, set up his own "group" in parliament, which instantly got 5% in the polls. In one poll, 18% of all voters said they would consider voting for him.

Here's the current graph on how many seats the various parties are getting in the polls (total=150):


The graph roughly extends from the start of the 2002 election campaigns on the left to the current date on the right, with the 1998 election results as the starting point of each line on the very left. The red line is the Labour Party, the green the Christian-Democrats, the blue the right-wing liberals and the orange the List Pim Fortuyn. The dark-red is the Socialist Party, the light-green the Green Left.

Here's the graph that brings together various coalitions:


The red is the total for all left-wing parties together (including the Democrats), the black that for all right-wing parties. The fat lightblue line is the current coalition government, the dark blue line the previous one (with the List Fortuyn instead of the Democrats as junior coalition partner).
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Reply Tue 2 Nov, 2004 12:11 pm
New political murder shocks Holland

This morning, controversial filmmaker/TV personality/columnist Theo van Gogh was murdered on the street. Cycling in Amsterdam-East, he was overtaken by a 26-year old man who shot him. He still managed to escape, but reaching the other side of the street, the attacker shot him again, then stabbed him to death. The attacker was a Moroccan Dutchman, who left a letter in Arabic stabbed into Van Gogh's chest. He was arrested after a further firefight with the police, in which he was shot in his leg and a policeman was injured.

Van Gogh, who initially became famous with daring, explicit movies that reached both an art house and wider audience, the last few years attracted most attention by the many columns and TV appearances in which he warned against the danger of Islam and blasted muslims for being backward. For one of his last films, he worked with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the right-wing Somali politician who herself has often lambasted Islam and whose life has been threatened. The film, Submission, features the story of four abused women, shown in see-through versions of the burqa, with woman-unfriendly texts from the Quran calligraphed on their bodies.

Tonight, there will be a rally to protest Van Gogh's death "and defend free speech" at the Dam. It will be a "noiseprotest", and everyone is called on to make as much noise as possible. Downtown churches will all ring their bells.

Prime Minister Balkenende, who called Van Gogh a "striking personality and advocate of the free word" has reacted "with great horror". The queen is "shocked and aghast".

Fourty Muslims have published a collective statement in which they "completely condemn" the murder, which they called "an impermissible assault on the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom that makes life for all of us possible in this country." Signatories include most prominent representatives of Islamic organisations and Muslim parliamentaries from the right-wing liberals, the Labour Party and the Green Left.

At the place of the murder, though, reporters found both Dutch commemorators and Dutch Moroccans expressing their anger and disapproval, but also Moroccan men who said that Van Gogh had brought it upon himself and had gone too far.

Theo van Gogh was supposed to take part in an event on the US elections in the Melkweg tonight (I'd wanted to go there). The event will still take place, "in sobre form"; it being sold out, however, the organisers have appealed people to not come or gather there tonight.
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Reply Fri 5 Nov, 2004 10:50 pm
0 Replies
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2004 07:17 am
That's also a vote:

Pim Fortuyn Is Voted Greatest Dutchman in Broadcaster's Survey

Pim Fortuyn, the anti-immigrant candidate for the Netherlands' parliament assassinated in 2002, was voted as the greatest Dutch person ever in a national survey organized by the country's KRO public broadcaster.

Fortuyn, 54 when shot dead, was picked ahead of nine other finalists including Anne Frank and Vincent van Gogh in voting via Internet, telephone, text messaging and mail and conducted Oct. 11 through Nov. 15. The results appeared on KRO's Web site today. The broadcaster didn't say how many votes were submitted.

Voting coincided with the Nov. 2 killing of Theo van Gogh, a filmmaker and critic of Islam, and the arrest the same day of a man holding dual Moroccan and Dutch passports. Fortuyn, an author and lecturer who set up his own Pim Fortuyn List party, opposed immigration to focus on integrating minorities. Muslims make up about 900,000 of the Netherlands' 16 million citizens.

Fortuyn, also the subject of a movie by Van Gogh, rejected comparisons with extreme right-wing parties in Belgium, Denmark and Austria, saying he supported sheltering refugees and minorities already in the Netherlands. He was shot on May 6, 2002, by an animal-right activist, who was jailed for the crime.

Van Gogh's murder was followed by at least 10 arson and vandal attacks on mosques and Islamic schools in the Netherlands. The Dutch cabinet said Nov. 11 it plans to tighten national security and restrict immigration of Muslim clerics.

The 10 finalists were selected based on the votes of about 40,000 people, KRO said. The 10, in order of popularity, were: Fortuyn; William of Orange; Willem Drees; Antoni van Leeuwenhoek; Desiderius Erasmus; Johan Cruijff; Michiel de Ruyter; Anne Frank; Rembrandt van Rijn; and Vincent van Gogh.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2004 07:36 am
As the Dutch minister of justice said:
"Dit is erger dan de moord op Fortuyn". ' More to worry about this than about the murder of Fortuyn.'
PM Balkenende: "We zitten op de foute weg." 'We are on the wrong tack.'
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Reply Sat 11 Dec, 2004 07:09 am
What happened with the murder of Fortuyn and Van Gogh was an absolute disgrace. I hope countries who have a low muslim population are keeping abreast of this news and understanding the effects of sustained muslim immigration.
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