Just came back from the SP election party. As it looks now, we’ve more or less doubled our seats in Parlement, from five seats in 1998 to at least nine, possibly ten now. In Amsterdam we got just short of eleven percent of the votes, which was incredible.
Apart from us, the other big two winners were the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) who got 26, setting the record for most sears won by a new party in an parlementary election and the CDA, who went from 29 to 43 (!) seats, becoming by far the biggest party, followed by the LPF. The big losers were the three government parties PvdA, from 45 to 23, VVD, from 38 to 23 and D66, from 14 to 8. The other left wing party, Groen Links also lost one seat, going from 11 to 10 seats. Also “losing” big was Leefbaar Nederland, who once were thought to win as much seats as LPF did now, but who now got only two seats, the result of their principled decision to kick Fortuyn out of their party.
So what does this all mean? Is this a move to the right, as television pundits repeated constantly? Or is there more to it?
I think there is. This was not as much a move to the right as it was a punishment of a coalition which managed to lose almost all voter sympathy over the last two years or so. People were sick and tired of Paars, of the way the three coalition partners stifled debate and wanted something new and exciting, something that would break open debate again. At first this was Leefbaar Nederland, but with the entry of Pim Fortuyn, he became the crowbar which forced open Dutch politics. In my opinion, only he was able to do it, because the other alternatives, like CDA were seen as part of the Den haag establishment or like my own party SP and Groen Links, but also the Christenunie too much of a fringe party. There has always been a tradition of new parties doing well in elections when established parties became too arrogant (D66 started out that way) and LPF fitted in nicely. What is new is the margin with which they won, probalby explained by the combination of revulsion of Paars, the charisma of Fortuyn as well as the populistic message he brought of simle answers to complex problems.
It’s tempting to ask what would’ve happened if Fortuyn was still alive. Personally I think his party would’ve become even bigger as I think a lot of people who would’ve voted for him saw what a nitwits the rest of the party were and voted for others. The CDA, the christendemocrats profited from this, picking up Fortuyn voters as did the VVD perhaps, not as much in winning voters from them as in stopping losing voters to them. PvdA otoh and also Groen Links were I think damaged by the witchhunt against the left after Fortuyn’s murder, losing votes to CDA and LPF. For the SP, it mattered less, we stayed mostly out of it. The fact that we nearly doubled is also a sign that it wasn’t just a battle of left versus right wing parties.
I had intended to speculate about possible coalitions now as well but a) it’s late and b) I’m not
entirely sober anymore so I’ll save it till later.