Elections in the Netherlands

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 15, 2017

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.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Faustusnotes 03.15.17 at 12:32 pm

I know nothing about Dutch electoral politics but feel the need to point out hat D66 is a popular dice mechanic for character creation in Japanese RPGs.

Also I wonder if trump is going to be a drag on the extreme right -everyone can now see the consequences of electing rank amateurs and racists to lead a country, perhaps it will give some conservatives pause to think about whether to jump ship …

2

wp200 03.15.17 at 3:22 pm

Also I wonder if trump is going to be a drag on the extreme right -everyone can now see the consequences of electing rank amateurs and racists to lead a country, perhaps it will give some conservatives pause to think about whether to jump ship …

It’s difficult to gauge what goes on inside the minds of Wilders followers. They are ill informed, even about Geert Wilders. They just know he’s against immigrants and against Islam. I am pretty sure that actual information about the disaster that is Trump will not reach them, and I am not sure the negative image of Trump will reach them either.

Geert Wilders has no intention to govern (although he can’t say that out loud). His policy proposals are rank amateurism and racist and have been for far longer than Trump has been a politician. About half of them are unconstitutional, most of them are unworkable, none of them are realistic (as in they might get support from other parties).

On the other side, the conventional political parties have just presided over the worst recovery after the deepest recession since the 1930s. They managed this by falling for the idiocy that is austerity. First with the VVD-CDA coalition (and the “Kunduz-agreement”), then with the VVD-PvdA coalition. On the right the VVD will be rewarded by the “Schwabian housewife” vote who wrongly belief that austerity has worked. After all, the economy has now (after 10 years!) recovered. On the left the PvdA will be decimated with supporters fleeing to other left-wing parties.

3

JohnT 03.15.17 at 3:57 pm

In Holland we already had an attempt to integrate amateur hard-righters into government – the first Balkenende cabinet in 2002, which included the LPF (Pim Fortuyn Party). It was a complete car crash, imploding in 7 months, and one of the reasons to believe Dutch mainstream politicians when they say they will never form a government with Wilders. In any case it doesn’t take a genius to see that forming a coalition with Wilders is equivalent to being a frog that gives a scorpion a lift.

As to the result, I am in the unusual position of being terrified of my hopefulness. In the first instance my gut feel is that the PVV are going to be 3rd or 4th, which would be nice. However, given that I thought Remain had won in the UK and Clinton in the US, my Second Sight (to borrow from Terry Pratchett) suspects Wilders will therefore be first. Although thanks to our proportional system, that won’t change anything meaningful.

4

mpowell 03.15.17 at 7:49 pm


On the other side, the conventional political parties have just presided over the worst recovery after the deepest recession since the 1930s. They managed this by falling for the idiocy that is austerity.

So sad that people believe this. Nobody would have been allowed to purse the needed fiscal policy given the monetary policy of the ECB. They would have been knee-capped by the ECB who were intent on pursuing policy no more aggressive than, “avoid complete disaster, except in Greece and a little bit in Spain”

5

wp200 03.15.17 at 8:17 pm

The two Dutch governments of Rutte (and a lot of the opposition) were part of the consensus that formed the monetary policy of Europe. They were enthusiastic apostles of the 3% rule. Jeroen Dijsselbloem (“Eurozone chairman”) is Dutch Labour.

They weren’t forced into austerity, they were true believers. Just read the manifestos for the 2012 election.

6

wp200 03.15.17 at 8:19 pm

First exit polls:

VVD big winner with 31 seats. PVV disappoints at only 19 seats. Labour crushed with just 9 seats.

7

Ingrid Robeyns 03.15.17 at 8:41 pm

link to exit polls results:
http://nos.nl/artikel/2163343-exitpoll-vvd-veruit-de-grootste-partij.html

if this is true, then:
– VVD by far the biggest party, even though they lose 10 seats;
– no “breakthrough” of extreme-right populist party of Geert Wilders, PVV;
– Labour party, as WP200 rightly says, crushed – from 38 to 9 seats;
– in the center, significant wins for christian democrats and D66;
– for the Green party, a historic win (they have by far never been so big);
– also the Party of the Animals, which is hard to classify, has now 5 seats (coming from 2)
and two new parties enter parliament,
– DENK which is a party run by Dutch people with a migrant background who want to put etnicity/migrant-based discrimiation on the agenda (hence the opposite from PVV)
– Forum voor Democratie, party run by sexist, fact-denying, narcistic, climate-change-denying man, who considers himself the greatest intellectual of the Netherlands (predicted 2 seats).
In addition, we still have:
– SGP, conservative orthodox christian party
– CU, progressive but deeply religious christian party
– party for senior citizens.
I may have forgotten some. It just shows how totally fragmented the entire spectrum is. If the new government wants to be a majority government, it will need at least 4 parties (it doesn’t have to, under Dutch law, if that government requires support from another party to get its laws passed).

From my perspective, the good news is: no ‘right wing populist wave’ in the Netherlands, and those parties who are explicitly pro-climate (D66, GL, CU, PvdD ) together have become much bigger;
the bad news is, the VVD will be in charge for another four years, that means, we’ll have more of the basically neoliberal pro-capital policies that they have been pursuing (despite all the integrity questions that plagued their party).
So for green progressives and leftists – a mixed bag.

8

Z 03.15.17 at 8:45 pm

And the GroenLinks and SP (described in my source as a radical left party) are predicted to get 30 seats together, almost as much as the big winner and three times as much as the traditional left (the left altogether has lost many seats nevertheless). I would be very curious to know how this plays out in terms of forming a government. As I know nothing about the political landscape, can someone tell me for instance if D66 would join VVD and CDA in a coalition (if not, I dont’ quite see how the leading party could ever reach a stable majority without the PVV)?

9

J-D 03.15.17 at 8:59 pm

<blockquote<I may have forgotten some.

Yes, the SP (Socialist Party), sixth in the exit polls (behind GL — Green Left — but ahead of PvdA — Labour).

10

J-D 03.15.17 at 9:29 pm

As I know nothing about the political landscape, can someone tell me for instance if D66 would join VVD and CDA in a coalition

D66 did exactly this in 2003. On the other hand, that coalition came to an end in 2006 because D66 withdrew from it.

11

Val 03.15.17 at 10:44 pm

Living in one of the world’s early bird countries, I thought I might be able to see some more news on this, but nup, it’s all still about the exit polls. When will there be some news about vote counting? (And why is it so slow? Also, what is this voting on weekdays? When will the rest of the world follow Australia’s example and make everyone vote, on a Saturday, with a sausage sizzle?)

12

Ingrid Robeyns 03.15.17 at 10:56 pm

Sorry for forgotten the SP. What’s surprising about them, is the they haven’t been able to capture at least some of the massive loss of the PVDA. How I understand these two parties, the PVDA is -on paper- social democratic, but has really moved a lot into the ‘third way’ ideology – and in this coalition with the conservative liberals (VVD), they have been involved in many welfare state reforms that are hard to call socialist (e.g. they moved many important parts of the welfare state from the state level to the local level, but instead of adding temporary funds to make this transition go smooth, they implemented a 15% so-called “Efficiency cut” since allegedly the local levels would be more efficient in caring for the needs and interests of the unemployed, the disabled, abused children, children with psychiatric disorders, and so forth. two years after those transitions, many vulnerable people are not better off – often they are worse off.) Many traditional PVDA voters have probably felt very deeply betrayed that their party, of all parties, has been pivotal in this retrenchment of the welfare state. Yet one would expect that those voters would go to the SP, which is a much more ‘old-fashioned’ socialist (by European standards) party – they are proponents of a larger welfare state, and especially not a (neoliberal) welfare state were markets are involved in delivering the services. But the exit poll predictions point to a very small win for the SP (one extra seat). To me, that’s surprising.

13

Ingrid Robeyns 03.15.17 at 11:07 pm

Val, it takes so long because:
– high turnout (81 or 82%)
– counting started only at 9 pm
– we voted on paper and with a red pencil (no interference of Russian boys possible) so it needs to be counted by hand
– the paper ballot was HUGE – there were 28 parties on it, so all those need to be unfolded

I’m now off to sleep, so you will know the results before me :)
you can see them here: http://nos.nl/artikel/2163332-tk17-steeds-meer-uitslagen-komen-binnen.html
just scroll down to see the results (I think Enlgish and Dutch are close enough languages to be able to understand for those who know English but no Dutch, isn’t it?)

14

J-D 03.15.17 at 11:15 pm

In the last 40 years, the Netherlands has had governments of CDA and PvdA (both with and without D66), governments of CDA and VVD (both with and without D66), and governments of PvdA and VVD (both with and without D66). In addition, from 2007 to 2010 there was a CDA-PvdA-CU government, and from 2010 to 2012 there was a VVD-CDA government which was only able to stay in office (lacking a parliamentary majority of its own) because the PVV guaranteed support without joining the government. None of the other existing parties has previously been part of a government, although the PPR, one of the four parties which later merged to form GL, was included in a government coalition from 1973 to 1977.

If the exit polls are correct, or even approximately correct, none of these combinations will have a majority in the new Tweede Kamer; at least four parties will need to be included to produce a majority coalition.

15

nnyhav 03.15.17 at 11:52 pm

(I think Enlgish and Dutch are close enough languages to be able to understand for those who know English but no Dutch, isn’t it?)

“I love the way that Dutch always looks like someone with a strong Midlands accent talking through a heavy cold”, sez dsquared

16

Val 03.16.17 at 4:02 am

Thanks Ingrid, the results are actually coming through in the Guardian now.

We have over 90% turnout (voting being compulsory) and pen and paper voting, but most results are generally known for the lower house on the night. I think the difference is our polls close at 6 PM, and in the lower house, the majority of people still tend to vote for one or other of the two major parties.

(The Upper House here is different, there is proportional voting and a lot of parties – though maybe still not quite as many as you! – and results can take two weeks to finalise. It’s been simplified a bit recently but still takes a while)

It looks like Wilders gets about 13%, compared to our recent WA state election where One Nation got about 7-8% (we will have to wait and see how ON goes nationally but presumably it will not be much different). However our major parties of the left and right (Labor and Liberal) are both very hard line on immigration and refugees, so that may be why there doesn’t appear to be such a significant right wing populist vote here (ie more of it is being absorbed by the major parties)

17

Equalitus 03.16.17 at 5:31 am

Again the Social Democrats are crushed because they pertain to be monetarily illiterates, it’s judicially, institutionally, and fiscally impossible to implement stuff from their political program when the country do not have monetary sovereignty.

18

John Quiggin 03.16.17 at 6:42 am

The collapse of PvdA seems like another example of Pasokification. Does any country have a constitutuency for pro-austerity social democrats?

19

J-D 03.16.17 at 7:37 am

Does any country have a constitutuency for pro-austerity social democrats?

I don’t know. What about Germany?

20

Z 03.16.17 at 8:06 am

Thanks a lot Ingrid and J-D for these explanations, very interesting stuff.

Does any country have a constitutuency for pro-austerity social democrats?

To my great surprise (I should say), France apparently does, at least for the presidential election (the general elections remain quite unpredictable) with Macron the overwhelming favorite running on an explicitly pro-austerity, low taxes, “agile, flexible welfare state” but also pro-immigration, culturally progressive and generally decidedly “soft” platform.

But the exit poll predictions point to a very small win for the SP (one extra seat). To me, that’s surprising.

In the countries I am familiar with, parties with actually leftwing propositions do not attract young working class voters anymore but rather appeal to highly educated voters in dynamic, urban area (and largely the same for Green parties). Is something like this going on also in the Netherlands?

21

wp200 03.16.17 at 8:27 am

The collapse of PvdA seems like another example of Pasokification. Does any country have a constitutuency for pro-austerity social democrats?

Being punished for getting it wrong is what elections are supposed to be about.

What is dismaying is that there still is a widespread consensus in the Netherlands that austerity helped overcome the crisis. The VVD campaigned on it relentlessly, and neither political journalists nor political opponents called their bullshit.

22

Colin 03.16.17 at 12:20 pm

@Z: Macron stands out by French standards by embracing multiculturalism, whereas Rutte is an assimilationist when it comes to immigration. But apart from that, how different are they really ideologically? They both seem to be ‘pragmatic centrists’ of the kind that the business press loves.

As for austerity, neoliberal parties want to cut spending as a matter of principle, so it doesn’t really hurt them when they get an excuse to do so, but social democrats who slash spending alienate their own true believers and look like they’re giving in out of desperation or cowardice. The empirical success or failure of the policy doesn’t matter that much, because most of the time, people just find evidence to confirm their existing beliefs about how the country should be run (so e.g. if favourite policy X backfires, the problem was ‘it was implemented badly’ or ‘they didn’t go X enough’ rather than ‘maybe X is a bad idea’). So if you’re doing something wrong, it’s better electorally to have been consistently wrong.

23

mpowell 03.16.17 at 4:23 pm

@wp200 – To a large extent it is really immaterial whether the Dutch government is a true believe in austerity or not. The major shortcoming of the Euro project is that all the Euro economies are tied to the same currency and that the management of that currency is run according to a near-suicidal commitment to low inflation. Your statement:


On the other side, the conventional political parties have just presided over the worst recovery after the deepest recession since the 1930s. They managed this by falling for the idiocy that is austerity.

The part I disagree with is that the cause of the recession was the Dutch government’s falling for austerity. No, the cause was that monetary policy was too tight. The Dutch government could have had any kind of view on the benefits of austerity and it would not have helped – it certainly did not help the Greeks one iota to have the view that they should be allowed to run much larger government deficits than 3%. Running larger fiscal deficits can certainly help a recovery, but the monetary actor is the last mover. The Euro region will continue to suffer crushing recessions as long as the ECB continues to operate under its current philosophy.

I realize this is off topic for this thread, but it is so frustrating to see a whole continent that does not understand what their chief economic problem is (and continues to plague any governing party). And remarkably, this misunderstanding is a pretty uniform view across political parties and movements. Desire to exit the EU, where it exists, is primarily about immigration, not the ECB.

24

Akshay 03.16.17 at 10:03 pm

JQ@18, The Netherlands does have a constituency for a pro-austerity Labour party. That’s how they’ve gotten elected to government regularly for the past 30 years! The majority of its voters probably believe in Swabian Housewife economics, as the decline of unionisation has ended a vector for educating people about Keynesianism. “Tough” finance ministers are always popular in the Netherlands. (I guess small, open economies tend to be less Keynesian. This includes most European countries)

No, this disaster is much deeper and has been decades in the making. (1) The PvdA went centrist years before Blair and created room for left protest votes in the radically PR NL voting system. (2) It’s finance ministers presided over banking bailouts and a long recession, due to circumstances mostly out of the national control of a small, open economy. (3) Due to declining party loyalty, the PvdA has serious competition from the Far Left, the LibDems, the PVV and the GreenLeft, eating its votes from all sides. So it can’t pander to left, right, liberal, cosmopolitan or nationalist voters without alienating other parts of its base. (4) It has also lost it’s ability to sound authentic about anything and to articulate a genuine centre-left vision. It’s politicians sound like they are expressing a perfectly calibrated mix of panderings to their left, centrist, liberal and nationalist voters. Well, there are parties who pander to any of those people more authentically. And it makes the PvdA hard to believe. Are they on the Left at all? Or are they closet centrists? Then why not vote D66? (5) NL is an opinion-poll saturated society with many similar parties and many tactical voters. The latter will desert the PvdA for D66 or GL if they see that the PvdA is going to end up powerless anyway. Some of its voters probably didn’t bother showing up to vote. (6) Its Muslim voters cast a protest vote for DENK, a Muslim PvdA splinter party. Remember, pandering to Dutch nationalists might alienate Turkish-Dutch citizens. (7) The PvdA was the centre-left junior partner in a coalition with a larger conservative party. This is going to give you grief in any circumstances. (8) If you really want a more economic materialist explanation, see if you can quantify “The Great Risk Shift” and the psychic anxiety as a cradle-to-grave welfare state becomes a social-liberal insurance state. NL scores far too well on the more crude and obvious socio-economic indicators for them to provide an explanation for populism and Labour decline.

As for the austerity, NL ran a government deficit of 3% for years. After the crisis started, the CPB (NL Gov Econometric Agency), under its more gutsy former director, published a Keynesian critique of the 3% Deficit rule. They advised letting automatic stabilisers do their work, and back-load the necessary fiscal reform to ensure long term fiscal sustainability with an ageing population. IIRC, their optimal fiscal solution was something like a 5,5% / 4% / 2% / 2% deficit pathway. Well, we missed that optimal solution by sticking to a 3% deficit. That’s a pity, especially for the PvdA, but Greece this ain’t.

For an analogy, consider Bernie Sanders’ beloved Denmark, where the far right wins ~20% of the vote. Moral of the story: you can make Bernie dictator, have him transform the USA, and after the restoration of democracy 20% of the population will still vote for authoritarian nationalists, and the 30% conservatives will still happily pander to them. Nevertheless, 20% of the vote under a stable social-democracy is a lot better than having the Radical Right in the White House, controlling all branches of government, 2/3 of the States, and being nearly powerful enough to amend the Constitution at will. Similarly, the 15% the Far-Right gets in NL is bad, and all the pandering to them is bad, and the Left is in crisis, but hey, it’s still a rich welfare state, and it’s not falling for Brexit-level idiocracy *yet*.

P.S.: mpowell@23, you are criticising the long-gone Trichet ECB. The Draghi ECB has massively turned on the money-hose, and now has a bigger balance sheet than the Fed. They will do “Whatever It Takes”. Draghi has spent many speeches subtweeting large wealthy nations for not helping him out with the necessary fiscal stimulus. Haven’t you heard the Germans loudly gnashing their teeth as the Italians have taken over monetary policy? Address Keynesian complaints to the fiscal authorities please. (For NL, by the way, monetary policy might have been a bit too loose, not too tight. But this is indeed getting off topic)

25

wp200 03.16.17 at 10:32 pm

The part I disagree with is that the cause of the recession was the Dutch government’s falling for austerity. No, the cause was that monetary policy was too tight.

]

I think you’re right that monetary policy was too tight, but I disagree that this was more important than fiscal policy.

When you have a 10% drop in demand because of a burst bubble, a 3% deficit just isn’t going to fill the hole. And once you’re at the zero lower bound monetary policy will always be too tight, you only have a choice between good old fashioned fiscal policy (i.e. Keynesianism) or unorthodox monetary policy (i.e. quantitative easing). Fiscal policy is much more effective.

But still, during the crisis the different Dutch governments did not call for looser monetary policy, or even for more quantitative easing. They quoted Reinhart and Rogoff and warned of pending inflation.

26

J-D 03.17.17 at 4:07 am

(7) The PvdA was the centre-left junior partner in a coalition with a larger conservative party. This is going to give you grief in any circumstances.

In my mind this prompts two questions.

First question: is the statement correct? That suggests a search for counterexamples. How about the SPD being junior partner in a coalition with the CDU from 1966 to 1969, followed by thirteen years leading the government from 1969 to 1982? Does that count as a counterexample?

Second question: if it’s true, or even true a large part of the time, why do the junior partners get themselves into those situations? In this particular case, for example, if it was predictable that accepting the position of junior partner in a coalition government with the VVD was going to turn out badly for the PvdA (or even it it was predictable as the probable outcome, rather than a certainty), why did the PvdA do it?

27

wp200 03.17.17 at 5:00 am

In this particular case, for example, if it was predictable that accepting the position of junior partner in a coalition government with the VVD was going to turn out badly for the PvdA (or even it it was predictable as the probable outcome, rather than a certainty), why did the PvdA do it?

The PvdA did it because like most “center-left” parties the active members (MPs and big city aldermen) are mostly educated technocrats. Think Blairite Spads. They are to the right of their own base.

These people believed in neoliberalism, they believed in austerity and they believed that “making the necessary cuts” makes you look “tough”.

Which was especially galling since the PvdA had campaigned in 2012 by attacking the cuts of the previous government and making Keynesian noises.

28

wp200 03.17.17 at 7:47 am

As for the austerity, NL ran a government deficit of 3% for years. After the crisis started, the CPB (NL Gov Econometric Agency), under its more gutsy former director, published a Keynesian critique of the 3% Deficit rule. They advised letting automatic stabilisers do their work, and back-load the necessary fiscal reform to ensure long term fiscal sustainability with an ageing population. IIRC, their optimal fiscal solution was something like a 5,5% / 4% / 2% / 2% deficit pathway. Well, we missed that optimal solution by sticking to a 3% deficit. That’s a pity, especially for the PvdA, but Greece this ain’t.

While I agree with everything you say, my view on this is gloomier.

With the Kunduz-agreement and the 2012 PvdA-VVD coalition most parties of the left explicitly endorsed the Schwabian housewife economic worldview. The exceptions are the Socialist Party (who started out as Maoists in the 1970s and have simply drifted into Keynesian territory by following the Overton Window) and the tiny PvdD (Party for Animal Rights). It’s one thing if they are too tepid when being right, it’s another thing when the best you can say of them is that they are just as wrong as the conservatives, but at least they feel bad about imposing austerity.

And yes, a 3% deficit is still austerity when you’re in a 10% hole.

29

J-D 03.17.17 at 10:56 am

The PvdA did it because like most “center-left” parties the active members (MPs and big city aldermen) are mostly educated technocrats. Think Blairite Spads. They are to the right of their own base.

These people believed in neoliberalism, they believed in austerity and they believed that “making the necessary cuts” makes you look “tough”.

I don’t know any Blairite Spads, and suggesting that I ‘think Blairite Spads’ doesn’t help me to understand.

That aside, your explanation is good enough as far as it goes, but it’s incomplete (unless the suggestion that I ‘think Blairite Spads’ contains, by implication, the answer to my follow-up question).

On the one hand, I suppose it’s possible that PvdA politicians genuinely and sincerely believed that the policies they were supporting were so important for the benefit of the country that it was worth doing massive damage to their own party’s electoral prospects. The party did lose 29 seats in the Tweede Kamer; I feel confident that those 29 individuals (give or take a few, allowing for changes in the candidates’ list) would have preferred to keep their seats if they could, but it’s possible they believed there was a greater goal to be achieved and were moved by a spirit of altruism and self-sacrifice. (You don’t have to believe that the cause for which people sacrifice themselves is a good one to recognise that they may genuinely believe in it and may genuinely be willing to sacrifice themselves for it.)

The obvious alternative possibility is that they didn’t believe that they were sacrificing their party’s interests, that they didn’t foresee this electoral collapse, that they expected the course they were taking to be compatible with more or less holding their electoral ground (give or take the usual swings and roundabouts). If that’s the explanation, it does seem to count against the theory that the strategy was obviously certain to be disastrous for the party.

As against that, there’s also the possibility that the collapse is cyclical and not secular, that the PvdA will experience another upswing after a spell in opposition. There’s nothing obviously implausible about this. D66 went down to 3 seats in 2006 and are now at 19, their second-best result ever; we don’t know now that the PvdA will make a similar comeback, but we also don’t know now that they won’t.

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nastywoman 03.17.17 at 1:59 pm

– and perhaps it’s worth mentioning that we all should thank a certain F…face – that he is such an incredible idiotic, demented and nasty F…face – that now all similar appearing type of F…faces in Europe are ‘out – out – out’!
Meaning not totally ‘out of some Parliaments or Politics. – but ‘out’ in the sense that too much sunbathing is ‘out’ – and the orange tan of Orange Orang Utans isn’t ‘that’ desirable anymore.

And so – if the NYT times writes today that ‘The Dutch vote is encouraging, but the threat of far-right populism in Europe continues’ – the NYT just doesn’t understand how this century works.
Or in other words:
The threat of ‘far-right populism in Europe’ is no real thread anymore – thanks to a US F…face – who showed every European what a ‘sick joke’ it can be.
-(even if some of US actually might enjoy ‘sick jokes’ to a certain extent)

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wp200 03.17.17 at 2:37 pm

My impression is that the PvdA politicians (Samson, Asscher, Dijsselbloem etc) really believe in two things:

(1) They believed in austerity, just as their predecessors (for instance Wim Kok) had believed in neoliberalism. In fact I think they still believe in neoliberalism, inasmuch as they aren’t contemplating any rollback. They really seem to belief their own bullshit.

(2) They really, honestly believed that they would be rewarded for making “tough” decisions. They were hurting their base far more than the right-wing VVD was hurting its base, and the VVD (and its base) have always been anti-Keynesian. The PvdA had to break far more 2012 campaign promises. They were delusional, it was obvious in 2012 that they were going to get crushed. But they really seemed to belief they would be rewarded for implementing austerity.

As for the 40 year neoliberal project: we’ve been saddled with a dysfunctional “market” in healthcare (really a kartel of 4 insurers, costing us more than ever before), with a “liberalisation” of social housing on an epic scale, a failed privatisation of the new high-speed railway to Brussels and Paris, a financial industry that has scammed the population out of billions with impunity (“woekerpolissen”), an explosion of “self-employed” low-wage work where benefits have been cut. Growth has been lower and more uneven than before. Sure, the VVD is worse in this respect, as are the centrist parties CDA and D66.

But the PvdA colluded in this. It is no longer the party that stands up for low-wage workers, not because the PvdA doesn’t care about them, but because the technocrats heading the PvdA have been massively wrong and have been making things worse for their own base.

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wp200 03.17.17 at 3:42 pm

For those of you who speak Dutch:

http://www.volkskrant.nl/opinie/vertrekkend-pvda-kamerlid-jan-vos-haalt-uit-naar-spekman~a4475299/

Jan Vos is a Labour MP who blames the defeat on Labour moving too far to the left.

Open politici zoeken verbinding met nieuwe maatschappelijke trends. Gesloten politici verdedigen de tradities van de sociaal-democratie.

Loose translation: Open politicians seek connection with new societal trends. Closed politicians defend the traditions of social-democracy.

My guess is that this Labour MP is in favour of our postmen being “self-employed” and without disability insurance or pension. 9 seats is still too much.

33

Igor Belanov 03.17.17 at 6:45 pm

JD: “As against that, there’s also the possibility that the collapse is cyclical and not secular, that the PvdA will experience another upswing after a spell in opposition.”

Yes, it seems that there is a lot of room for these type of swings in the Dutch system. IIRC, it was thought that at the last Dutch election a lot of voters switched from Green Left to Labour in the hope of improving their coalition bargaining position and making the Labour leader PM. Presumably they’ve all gone back!

That said, Labour’s demise is so drastic that I don’t think they’ll recover all the ground and they appear to have lost a lot of their traditional ‘core’.

34

mpowell 03.17.17 at 7:20 pm

Well since we were talking about Dutch policy post-2008, the impact of the Trichet ECB is certainly relevant. And even though Draghi has been better that’s a low bar to clear and his “whatever it takes” is really just whatever it takes to avoid another complete banking meltdown. But inflation high enough to lead to a strong recovery across Europe (god forbid inflation should ever go above the alleged target) certainly not in the cards. And if you’re going to be part of such a monetary union I guess you had better have a fiscal policy backup. And if it means you are up against a -3% rule, you’re going to need to leave a lot of margin when not in recession. It might actually work for a small open economy, but good luck with the politics of actually running a surplus the rest of the time. One of the dangers, I think, of a huge number of political parties is that it would be even harder to make institutional level commitments to long term policy.

35

J-D 03.17.17 at 9:43 pm

They were delusional, it was obvious in 2012 that they were going to get crushed. But they really seemed to belief they would be rewarded for implementing austerity.

I mentioned that as a possibility. But the delusion would have to be massive, wouldn’t it? If it was obvious and certain in 2012 that joining the government would result in the permanent loss of the majority of PvdA voting support, how could the PvdA not notice this fact? How do people reach such a state of delusion? That seems like an important question to me.

36

Mario 03.17.17 at 11:22 pm

I don’t get the impression – from observing European politics – that our elected governments amount to much in terms of power. The ‘Labour MP […] in favour of our postmen being “self-employed” and without disability insurance or pension’ is simply one possibility. You could, as an alternative, get the ‘Conservative MP […] in favour of our postmen being “self-employed” and without disability insurance or pension’. So far, so good.

But if you are into dark symbols and amoral stuff, the best you can hope for is the ‘Nazi MP […] in favour of our postmen being “self-employed” and without disability insurance or pension’.

As a leftist, on the other hand, our outlook is a bit brighter: at least we can hope for a ‘Comunist MP […] in favour of our postmen being “self-employed” and without disability insurance or pension’. Independently of whatever words he/she used before the election.

If you are frustrated with how everything turns out the same, you could for a change be a vandal voter, and get the ‘Xenomorph MP […] in favour of our postmen being “self-employed” and without disability insurance or pension’. But then The Grauniad is going to write articles about you being nasty (naughty?) and irresponsible.

Am I exagerating? Probably, a bit. But only out of frustration. In any case, i think it’s worth asking: what is going on? I mean – look at what has become of Syriza! How could that ever happen?

37

wp200 03.18.17 at 9:47 am

I mentioned that as a possibility. But the delusion would have to be massive, wouldn’t it? If it was obvious and certain in 2012 that joining the government would result in the permanent loss of the majority of PvdA voting support, how could the PvdA not notice this fact? How do people reach such a state of delusion? That seems like an important question to me.

Indeed.

My two cents:

(1) The Swabian housewife is strong in the Netherlands. “Cutting your way to growth” has been the norm since 1982 and the Wassenaar Agreement. The Overton Window has moved right, and all the parties have followed (like I said, this is how the Maoists Socialist Party ended up in Keynesian social-democratic territory). Terms like “centre-left” have become meaningless unless you attach a date to them. The current PvdA is probably to the right of the 1982 VVD.

(2) Participation in political parties is low. But the Dutch political system is rife with political jobs, both governmental, parliamentary and “semi-governmental”. These jobs are handed out to those active in the parties, similar to the US President handing out embassadorships to rich donors. And if you are in government, you get to hand out more jobs. With only few active members, once you’re in government it’s basically jobs for everybody.

Mayors and provincial governors are appointed, not elected. And even the elected officials (provincial estates, Eerste and Tweede Kamer of the Estates General) are elected on a party-list based vote. So if the polls put your party at 10 seats and you are on place 5 in the list, you are certain to be elected. The guy who put you on the list on place five is the one that got you elected. Then there are a lot of official “Advisory Councils”, we have gigantic pension funds that need figureheads, there are former politicians who run academic hospitals, who head the health insurers lobby, etc. etc. If you are willing to do all the dull tasks that go with being an active party member of a party that regularly is in a government coalition, there is a job waiting for you.

Those jobs are divvied up in backroom deals, somewhat in proportion to the size of the parties but of course the ruling parties get a larger part of the pie. It’s common to see that during the coalition talks the politicians in charge get more and more keen to govern, and usually the talk switches from “adhering to core principles” to “taking responsibility”. And because “taking responsibility” means “cutting entitlements” to the Swabian housewife, it’s the left and centre-left parties that are betrayed by their leadership. D66 also always wants to govern and then is punished by the voters at the next election.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassenaar_Agreement

38

Hidari 03.18.17 at 10:58 am

@18 ‘Does any country have a constituency for pro-austerity social democrats?’

Is this not a contradiction in terms? Are you not basically asking ‘Does any country have a social democratic party that opposes social democratic values’?

39

Hidari 03.18.17 at 11:03 am

@33 ‘That said, Labour’s demise is so drastic that I don’t think they’ll recover all the ground and they appear to have lost a lot of their traditional ‘core’.’

As the Labour Party in the UK are discovering, it’s very difficult, or impossible, to put the genie back in the bottle. Once you have deliberately chosen to toxify your brand, it’s difficult (or impossible) to get it back. Essentially without exception social democratic parties in the EU went along with austerity, and everyone remembers that, and will continue to remember that for the next 30 to 40 years. As Jeremy Corbyn is discovering just going ‘oops terribly sorry, we made a mistake, actually we are a left wing party after all’ won’t cut it.

Meanwhile the Right is resurgent and seems perfectly happy to cut up the electoral pie, so to speak, with a purely internal battle between neoliberal right wing parties and nativist populist right wing parties with the left and centre parties being completely frozen out. CF Poland. And this political arrangement might be stable for many decades.

40

Hidari 03.18.17 at 11:05 am

‘I mean – look at what has become of Syriza! How could that ever happen?’

What happened to Syriza is precisely what happened to all other parties of the left in Western Europe over the last 40 years. The only reason Syriza seems surprising is the speed with which it happened. But the process is deeply familiar.

41

Zamfir 03.18.17 at 9:13 pm

Is keynesian deficit spending a social democratic value? Some of the strongest practicioners were parties like the Japanese LDP, or the Italian Christian Democrats of the Andreotti era.

42

J-D 03.19.17 at 7:02 am

wp200
What you write may be so, or then again maybe it isn’t, but even if it is I don’t understand how it’s supposed to provide any answer to the question I was asking.

And even the elected officials (provincial estates, Eerste and Tweede Kamer of the Estates General) are elected on a party-list based vote. So if the polls put your party at 10 seats and you are on place 5 in the list, you are certain to be elected.

Yes, I already knew that, but I don’t see how it’s relevant to the point at issue. If you’re number 20 on the PvdA list and the PvdA attracts enough votes to be allotted 30 seats, you get one of them, but if it only attracts enough votes to be allotted 10 seats, you’re out of a job. So the question of how many votes the PvdA is going to attract is of acute importance to your career prospects; being deluded about what will attract votes to the party (and about what will fail to attract votes) cannot be a matter of indifference to you. The explanation for the delusion — if it is a delusion, which is the possibility I’m discussing here, although it’s a possibility rather than a certainty — cannot be that it does not make any difference to them.

43

wp200 03.20.17 at 9:13 am

Getting elected into the Chamber is a crucial step, yes. But for a lot of politicians it’s just that: a step. The way you get out of the Chamber is more important to them personally.

There is strict party discipline. This is necessary because having a coalition government means forcing the MPs of the coalition parties to sometimes vote for stuff they disagree with, as part of the “coalition agreement”. Just look at what the Lib-Dems did in the UK 2010-2015 government. And because the party can put any MP on an “unelectable” place on the list for the next elections, it’s easy to enforce party discipline. Especially because the party leadership has not just a stick but also a lot of carrots.

So the choice an MP faces is pretty stark: you can toe the line and if your party loses at the next election and you’ll lose your seat you will still be rewarded with—say—the mayoralty of a small to medium sized town (medium to large sized town if you were a minister or junior minister). Or you can rebel against the party line and end up with nothing.

Because of the party-list system (which has many advantages, but this is a major drawback) there is no Dutch equivalent of the “rebellious backbencher”. You can only rebel once. There’s a reason our MPs are often dubbed “stemvee” (voting cattle).

44

J-D 03.20.17 at 5:33 pm

wp200
I repeat:

What you write may be so, or then again maybe it isn’t, but even if it is I don’t understand how it’s supposed to provide any answer to the question I was asking.

You seem to be under the impression I was asking you ‘Why do PvdA politicians vote the way they do?’; at least, that seems to be the question you were answering. But that’s not the question I was asking.

45

wp200 03.21.17 at 2:58 pm

It is relevant because it shows that party politics in the Netherlands is a very top-down affair, and politicians are more beholden to party leadership than they are to the voter. You ask: “Why weren’t PvdA MPs afraid of the voters?”. Well, they probably were. It’s just that they were more afraid of PvdA-leadership. This can lead to group think.

Yesterday I saw an interview with Wouter Bos (former PvdA leader, he runs the Vrije Universteit Medical Center now), who was the “informateur” who started the coalition talks between VVD and PvdA after the 2012 election.

(1) The top of the PvdA absolutely believed (and still beliefs) that austerity was both beneficial and necessary. This even though the PvdA had made a lot of Keynesian noises during the 2012 campaign.

(2) They knew that their base would not be happy, but they went and did it anyway. They hoped that the austerity they imposed in 2012 would work it’s magic and the economy would be perfect by 2016. So yes, they expected to be rewarded “in the end”, even though they knew they were betraying both their base and their campaign promises. They were expecting to lose seats at the next municipal and provincial elections (which they did).

46

J-D 03.21.17 at 8:44 pm

wp200

You ask: “Why weren’t PvdA MPs afraid of the voters?”

No, I didn’t. You just made that up.

They hoped that the austerity they imposed in 2012 would work it’s magic and the economy would be perfect by 2016. So yes, they expected to be rewarded “in the end”, even though they knew they were betraying both their base and their campaign promises.

Now that might be part of an answer to my question, but only part of it.
If it was obvious in 2012 that this couldn’t possibly happen, how could Wouter Bos have believed in 2012 that it could happen?

47

wp200 03.22.17 at 4:43 am

J-D

Can you please stop trolling and explain yourself then?

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a better answer if you make clear just exactly what it is you want to know and why. Make an effort yourself.

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