Dutch Elections

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 22, 2006

The elections for parliament are held in the Netherlands today. The first exit polls are expected at just after 9 pm Dutch time. While in general elections in small countries are not particularly interesting for an international audience, one never knows what surprises (which may be relevant also beyond the national borders) are waiting for us. Apart from the question which party will become the biggest and hence (most probably) deliver the prime minister, here are two other prominent issues of the current Dutch elections.

Firstly, there are several extreme-right parties taking part in this election, most famously the Party for Freedom from Geert Wilders, who has a strong anti-muslim agenda. He has been interviewed internationally from CNN to Al Jazeera. In the current parliament, the right-wing voice was not very well organised, since the LPF (the party of the murdered Pim Fortuyn) lacked a strong internal organisation. In general Dutch politics has moved to the right; even prominent members of center-right parties are making statements which would be considered racist or discriminatory only a decade ago; the general political climate has become much more anti-immigrant and anti-Islam.

Secondly, for the first time in Dutch history (at least, to the best of my knowledge), there is a Party for the Animals taking part, who are defending the interests of animals. They spent an enormous amount of money on advertising, and have received the support from several well-known Dutch writers, such as Harry Mulisch. According to their own website, it would be the first time in the world that a party defending the interests of the animals would gain a seat in parliament. I am very curious to see if they will get into parliament, and if so, whether they will be able to make a difference.

{ 1 trackback }

C L O S E R » Blog Archive » The Dutch Elections 2006
11.22.06 at 6:38 pm



Rich B. 11.22.06 at 10:45 am

Well, if the Party for Freedom fails to win seats, let’s not its not due to an upsurge of support for the Charity, Freedom and Diversity Party.


Richard Prouty 11.22.06 at 11:49 am

Nice job providing context for the Dutch elections, and calling attention to their importance.


franck 11.22.06 at 12:29 pm

Is (or was) the LPF a right-wing party? Pim Fortuyn himself wasn’t your typical right-winger, being openly gay and in favor of secular social positions generally. Are people who were in LPF now associated exclusively with right-wing parties as commonly understood?

Is it true in the Netherlands that right-wing parties are anti-immigrant and left-wing parties are pro-immigrant? Are populist positions (anti-immigrant, pro safety net and socialist economics) only found on the right?

I ask because there is a real populist movement in the US that is left wing. Does the equivalent exist in the Netherlands, or is your position on immigrants the dividing line between left and right in the Netherlands.

Does the party for the animals have any connection to the Volkert van der Graaf types – i.e. are they politically left or not?


Ingrid Robeyns 11.22.06 at 2:38 pm

Franck: very interesting questions. I am going to give you my best answer, though should add that I only came to the Netherlands in August 2002, and even though I work in a political science department, I am not studying elections or politican parties. So there surely are more qualified people out there to answer your questions, and I hope they’ll join in.

LPF is a populist right wing party, because it stands for “law and order”; Pim Fortuyn was indeed explictely gay, but ironically he was not the most typical LPF-leader of today. The LPF website, which unfortunately (but not surprisingly) is only available in Dutch, states that “integration” (i.e. the “problems” with the “non-western immigrants”) is the single most important problem facing the Netherlands these days; and that “Dutch values” should always trump non-Dutch values when they conflict.

There is also a populist left-wing party, the Socialist Party; they are also more demanding of “non-western immigrants” (Read: muslims born outside the Netherlands, or their children), but their campaign focussed more on socio-economic issues, like the growing inequality between the rich and the poor, or the marketisation/liberalisation in the health care sector.

The Party for the ANimals is definitely not associated with Folkert van der Graaf (the murderer of Pim Fortuyn); if it does well in the elections, one of the reasons is precisely because it does not have a left or a right-wing profile. It has been said that quite a number of right-wing liberals (that is, right-wing on socio-economic issues, and liberal on non-economic ethical issues such as freedom of religion or abortion or gay rights) will vote for this party because they are profoundly unhappy with the animal-unfriendely profile of the right-wing liberal party.


leederick 11.22.06 at 3:05 pm

I see the Party For The Animals is having a bust up with muslims over Halal. So the anti-Islam shift hasn’t left them behind.

Am I right that the Netherlands doesn’t have electoral consituencies? If I remember correctly the only other (non-microstate) countries without them are Iraq and Israel.


Akshay 11.22.06 at 3:26 pm


The LPF was/is a right-wing party, economically as well as vis-a-vis immigrants. Fortuyn did mix in some lefty elements for populist effect though. After his death, it simply became an incoherent mess, though still mostly a right-wing mess.
Secular and gay-rights values are so dominant in Holland that they don’t really serve to distinguish left from right. Even the Christian Democrats are pretty secular by US standards. They rarely even mentioned their religion during the campaign. The “common” understanding of right-wing as religiously conservative is something specifically American, or Spanish, or whatever. It does not hold everywhere. This is partly what causes the Euro-American confusion over the meaning of the world ‘liberal’; on the continent, a ‘liberal’ believes in free markets, i.e. is on the right. In the US, she believes in social, or cultural ‘liberalism’ and is on the left.

All parties have become tougher towards immigration and immigrants, but there is no doubt the Dutch Left is a lot ‘nicer’ towards immigrants than the right. This is obvious, at least, to the immigrants, who overwhelmingly vote on the Left and detest the current government. (I think I can speak for most immigrants here)

There is a left-wing populist movement, the Socialist Party (SP). They got about 6% of the vote last time and are bound to double or triple that figure. This is what happens in a PR voting system if the ‘Blairite’ Labour party faces a well-organised threat on the left.

The Animal Party seems like a weird single-issue party, but I haven’t paid much attention to them. I have no evidence whatsoever of murderous intent on their part. I believe they got their funding from some rich, vegetarian sugar daddy.


Ingrid Robeyns 11.22.06 at 3:48 pm

According to the first couple of exit polls, the LPF will be kicked out of Parliament, the Freedom Party of Wilders gets 6 seats (out of a total of 150 seats), the Socialist Party (populist left) is the big winner and will get about 25 seats and will become the third party in the country, and the Party for the Animals gets 3 seats, which seems to be a historical achievement (they say they will defend the long-term interests of animals and people (i.e. the environement), rather than short terms issues such as the cost of higher education or fiscal measures).

The “mainstream” parties have either lost (the social democrats and the right-liberals) or have the same number of seats (the christian democrats), and the smaller parties (also e.g. a small leftist Christian party) all win or are status quo.

I’ll send the exact results tomorrow morning, if no one else has done so by then.


~~~~ 11.22.06 at 4:58 pm

One of my hopes for this election was that it would end the success of xenophobia as an electoral strategy. Unfortunately the projected 9 (nine) seats for the PVV (PvdV?) show that racism and fearmongering (a tsunami of islamisation, anyone?) still work. I expect that the VVD will soon make Verdonk their new leader, to get their bigot voters back.


franck 11.22.06 at 5:11 pm

Thanks for the responses to my questions, everyone. I’ll admit close to total ignorance of Dutch politics, so this is very helpful.


~~~~ 11.22.06 at 5:18 pm

Ooh this will be fun: with 77% counted the Christian Democrats have 41 seats, the Social Democrats 33, which means that there is no two party coalition with a majority (76 seats). Which party wants to commit suicide and join them? Groen Links? Christen Unie? Or… D66!


Tracy W 11.22.06 at 6:36 pm

Animal rights is interesting, given the diversity of animals.

I wonder, if there’s a policy issue on which there is an inherent conflict between animals (eg I have been told cats have to eat meat to survive), which side will they come down on?

And I skimmed _Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creates_ – which was an eye-opener with all the species for which rape, cannibalism, etc, is a natural way of life. It made me think that human rights are often quite specifically human rights, and it would be nuts to apply them to other species who are highly divergent from us. I wonder what they think about those issues.

It will be interesting to see how they manage their ideas when it comes to putting policy into practice. Unless, of course, they are just Greens with an attention-catching name.


DC 11.22.06 at 6:52 pm

I’m somewhat pleased and somewhat surprised that the animal rights movement appears not to have been majorly set back by Fortuyn’s murder, especially given that it seems to have propelled him to full blown martyr status (small consolation for him, I know).

The Irish Times’ coverage today suggested a far greater than usual mobilisation of immigrant (or immigrant-origins) voters could give a late boost to the Labour party, despite it’s having shifted to the right on such matters. Could they have supported the Socialists instead?


Ernst 11.22.06 at 7:07 pm

Some more information on the Party for the Animals if you are interested, It also participated in the 2003 elections and received a 0.5 share of the vote if I recall correctly, narrowly missing out an a seat back then.

Even if you discount the Greenleft party who have been parliament since late ’80 and whose program is actually more animal & eco friendly then the Party for the Animals’ program then there were still the green party who competed with the greenleft party in the ’80ths and begin ’90ths. While they had some success on a local scale they never entered parliament. Mainly because their direct competitors of the Greenleft party were more vocal about their own green roots back then.

So while their statement is technically correct, an animal rights party competing in Dutch elections is old hat. Their current position is not remarkable if set in the wider view of historically strong green movement in the Netherlands and the neglect of the Greenleft party to their core constituency.


mijnheer 11.22.06 at 10:53 pm

Nearly all the votes have been counted now. (Turnout was about 80%.) The Socialist Party has made major gains, to become a strong third party in the House. The Labour Party lost ten seats, but remains number 2, behind the Christian Democrats. The Party for the Animals (Partij voor de Dieren) has won two seats.

Re. #11 above: The Party for the Animals platform says that “regardless of whether they are in the wild or are kept in farms or homes, animals should be able to live according to their own nature and not have their well-being affected by humans without reasonable or necessary reason.” In general, the animal-rights position is that wild animals should be left alone to live according to their own natures, even when that means preying on other animals. They are not moral agents and so are not under the same moral constraints as human beings. The influential animal-rights philosopher Tom Regan says that explicitly. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed your domestic cat on a vegan diet, providing it has the right ingredients for cats.


Jacob Christensen 11.23.06 at 2:14 pm

My immediate reaction is that I really cannot remember seeing such a thoroughly messy outcome in an election in an established democracy (ok: Italy excel in odd elections) – with the possible exception of the Danish general elections of 1973, 1975 and 1977 (in 1979, things started to cool down). And somehow messy elections also seem to be a feature of contemporary Dutch politics.

It would also appear that all prospective coalitions PvdA-GL-SP, CDA-VVD and – er – some third option that I’ve read about somewhere has been rejected by the electorate and that a number of parties (especially D66 and VVD) also face internal problems.

Back in the 1970s, the Danish system coped by a series of minority governments which then entered agreements with changing partners. It wasn’t particularly effective but the system survived.

Traditionally, the Dutch system has never been that flexible, but maybe a CDA or PvdA minority cabinet is the only viable way out.


Tracy W 11.23.06 at 3:42 pm

regardless of whether they are in the wild or are kept in farms or homes, animals should be able to live according to their own nature and not have their well-being affected by humans without reasonable or necessary reason.”

This doesn’t strike me as much of a right at all. Without reasonable reason? Who defines reasonable?

This is basically the position of NZ law now – maltreatment of animals is banned (with of course a wide range of definitions around reasonable). I find it hard to believe that the Netherlands does not already have similar rules banning animal cruelty (allowing for different thinking about what “reasonable reason” is).

In general, the animal-rights position is that wild animals should be left alone to live according to their own natures, even when that means preying on other animals.

I wonder what the prey animals think about that?

And I don’t think the argument that animals are not moral agents is relevant. If a human being is dangerous to others, but is not a moral agent (eg due to insanity or mental limitations), we still do not let them wander around killing or raping people. Instead we lock them up in order to protect the rights of the rest of us.

Sorry, this is diverting from the original post. I just find the concept of animal rights interesting.


abb1 11.23.06 at 5:06 pm

I don’t think “their well-being affected by humans” necessarily entails maltreatment or cruelty. I think they just want you to avoid all unnecessary interference, whether it’s cruelty or kindness or anything else.


Martijn 11.23.06 at 5:33 pm

The biggest winners in the election are Wilders’ party Party for Freedom, the Christian Union and the Socialist Party. All three parties promote a very idealized form of communitarianism: inward oriented, trying to uphold a sense of gemeinschaft/community and social cohesion among the people. The Party for Freedom does that by stressing the importance of being Dutch, Dutch culture, Dutch values and norms:

[…]to preserve our common heritage. The struggle for the survival of our traditional values is not limited to one country.

It is not very clear what that common heritage exactly is, but since Islam and Muslims play the role of the ultimate other in their program, it is clear what that common heritage is not. The Christian Union also focuses on social cohesion:

For a Sustainable and Relational Society

The ChristianUnion frames its political views on current political issues in obedience to the Word of God. […] Starting point for this election program is that people come to their right in relation with other people. People should never be shut out; that is our motivation to invest in opportunities at the labour market for everyone.

And the same goes for the SP:

The social divide has grown, health care and education have deteriorated. The soul has been torn from our society, by which I mean the mutual understanding. Recently someone said to me, “What belongs to all of us has been lost.” And this is also the case. Public space has disappeared and the public sector has fallen into decline. I adhere to the dialectical idea that the more intensely something becomes itself, the more likely it is, ultimately, to cancel itself out.. I am convinced that in the next few years the indifference and superficiality will give way to a greater involvement and engagement.

The other party that has claimed victory, the Christian Democrats, have lost votes but are still the largest. The parties mentioned above, PVV,CU and SP, have campaigned against the European Constitution. Not really in the sense that they are anti-international or anti-globalization but in a sense that they don’t want globalization at the expense of the Dutch people. The same sense of inward looking and more or less the same communitarianism can be found at the Christian Democrats (no quotation: they don’t have an english language section…..).

This trend of looking inwards and turning against globalization and European unification can also be discovered in the latest election campaign: migration, the war against terror, development aid and Europe were never a real issue. Parties like the Green Left, D66 and VVD, that have campaigned in favor of the European constitution, have a more international oriented perception (although one could not really discover this during the campaign), have lost big time.


Tracy W 11.23.06 at 7:35 pm

So the animal rights people think that unnecessary playing with your dog is something to be avoided?

I wonder what their opinion is on seeing-eye dogs.


abb1 11.24.06 at 2:15 am

Why, I suppose for dogs to play with people is according to their own nature. But horseback riding, for example, is not in the nature of horses, even though most people don’t necessarily think of it as ‘cruel’. Zoos, animal circuses, stuff like that – it’s not against the law in NZ, is it?


eeid 11.25.06 at 4:35 pm

The Dutch Labour Party did not gain seats in this election. It actually lost seats and was in danger throughout this election of being surpassed by the anti-EU Socialist Party.

The Dutch Liberal Party is not traditionally anti-immigrant. There had been a shift in direction under cabinet ministers Rita Verdonk and Gerrit Zalm to be more market friendly and integrationist with regards to economic and social policy. This was the result of the Liberals losing support to Pim Fortuyn’s List in the election held after his murder.

Also the Dutch Labour party is not really that pro-immigrant. Its policies are similar to the Labour party in Britain. Some members have supported the proposed burqa ban and the previous administration had promoted reforms that Balkenende’s governments carried on. In fact, it is the move to the political centre by the Labour party that many Dutch urban votes went to support the Socialist party instead.


Tracy W 11.25.06 at 9:46 pm

So the Animals Rights people intend to introduce laws to ban zoos, circuses, horseback riding?

I still wonder if animals are really concerned about these things, and if they would instead place other priorities higher – such as mice having an interest in not being eaten by owls.


abb1 11.26.06 at 5:36 am

I don’t know what laws they intend to introduce, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I think the concerns of most of these animal rights groups (my daughter is a big enthusiast) have nothing to do with whatever problems the mice might have with the owls; it’s about animals and the humans. In general, they want animals to be left alone; and as usual there are various degrees of radicalism there, of course.


dutchmarbel 11.26.06 at 6:20 am

I think the party for animals also wants to extensively promote a vegetarian lifestyle – whic is allready a notch down from the earlier partyprogram where they wanted to make it obligatory.

Comments on this entry are closed.