Today are elections in the Netherlands. They are labelled ‘historical’ elections, for both national and international reasons. The most important international reason is that this is a first of several national elections in Europe taking place this year, and the question is to what extent (right-wing) populist parties will win the elections. The fear is that this could lead to more countries being led by parties who want to pull out of the EU, and have more nationalistic and populist politics – closing borders, pulling out of international treaties, and perhaps even eroding the rule of law. The worry is that the Netherlands may be the first in a row of right-wing populist victories.
The reasons why these elections are important for the Dutch are various, but in addition to the one above, another important one is the increasing fragmentation of the political landscape. Various new political parties are taking part in the elections, both at the progressive and conservative edges. Most are expected to win one, at most two seats. The genuine fragmentation will probably come from the fact that those parties that were once the ‘big three’ (VVD – conservative liberals, CDA – Christian democrats, and PVDA – Social Democrats) – no longer control the political landscape.
If one looks at the latest results from the Peilingwijzer, which is aggregate of all different voting polls which has been conducted by Tom Louwerse, a political scientist from Leiden University, one can see that 6 (or 7) parties are now ‘among the largest’, and that the distance between the first and the following is not that big (the second graph, with ‘zetels’ as the unit, are the number of seat predicted; there are 150 seats to be divided). If this is roughly how voters will vote, then many different coalitions will be possible, and a coalition will also need several parties in order to form a government. Notable are the great predicted loss for the social democrats: many progressive voters are moving to other parties, such as Groen Links, the green party, which is predicted to have an unprecedented good result. The progressive liberals, D66, are also predicted to do very well. So while these polls still give two right-wing parties the lead, the progressive parties had strong campaigns, and given the fragmentation of the political landscape, a progressive government is not ruled out. And if the Peilingwijzer is giving a somewhat reliable prediction of the outcome, then we won’t see the populist right-wing victory that some fear.
But let’s first see to what extent these predictions have been any good. Tonight, from 9 pm onwards local time, we can expect results coming in. Since voting takes place by paper and red pen (sorry, Putin), they have to be counted manually – and the impression is that turnout is quite high.
I voted two hours ago, the first time I was able to vote for parliament as a Dutch citizen. I can’t tell you how much I value that right, and I hope many of my fellow citizens will realise what a privilege it is to be able to vote in fair elections, in a country where the rule of law is still protected. Alas, I am now on my way to London to give a talk at the LSE Political Theory Grad conference tomorrow, so will sadly be more removed from Dutch sources than some of the readers of this blog. So friends, the floor is yours.