Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 10:52:11 AM EST
On November 22nd, national elections are held in the Netherlands. I'll have to resort to speed-diarying (in English) to get every electable party a necessary introduction in the hodgepodge that is the Dutch political landscape.
Below, an overview of the Dutch political right. Be forewarned that I'm extremely biased.
Since tomorrow is the Dutch election, lets put this up these party descriptions and an election thread tomorrow - whataboutbob
Firstly, is there such a thing as left and right? In ET's political compass, we find division between left and right and between authoritarian and libertarian (would that be similar to statism and individualism?). The Dutch Kies Kompas divides it up into left vs right horizontally and progressive vs conservative vertically. I find that somewhat more useful, but have run out of the time to do a proper R script for the Dutch parties, while it would be immensely illustrative considering the visual hodgepodge of no less than 14 national parties (See my previous diary for an overview.)
Secondly, before I run into troubles on gradations again, I'll refrain to the orientation of the parties using the gradations centre - centre-right - hard right - extreme right. I will briefly discuss the parties at the right of the spectre starting from the centre.
A coalition party of the current government, under the leadership of Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch minister president.
CDA is an amalgamation of three Christian parties, catholic and protestant, which coalesced together after constantly shrinking in size in the seventies, during the weakening of the pillarisation within the Netherlands. Although still officially touting their Christian roots, the Bible is seen as a possible inspiration for party members and the party also readily embraces members adhering other faiths than Christian ones.
Although a self-proclaimed centre party, history shows that CDA is willing to bend either right or left when the occasion present itself, making it practically indispensable from the political hobnobbing during coalition formations.
The Balkenende government is considered to be a centre-right government, strongly influenced by the more economically liberal ideas of the VVD party (see below). High ranking party members have openly professed their displeasure with the absence of a socially orientated program and dearth of environmental policy.
The VVD formed the second important leg to the Balkenende tri-partite but was perceived to have dominated the policy of the past four years. Interestingly, CDA now gets most of the credit for the economical upturn.
Although supportive of the welfare state and progressive in individual rights, VVD also has vociferously pursued market liberalisation and private entrepreneurship. They released a Liberal Manifesto in 2005, written under the guidance of the party-leader of that time, Van Aartsen, and advocating, for example, a direct election of the Minister President, a direct election of mayors, a person's right to choose euthanasia (which is the current situation in the Netherlands).
Their latest period of governance has brought forth the two ugliest sides of the party: neoliberal marketista policy in the shape of the current party-leader Mark Rutte (see picture) and populist immigrant bashing in the shape of Rita Verdonk, the ex-prison director and now controversial minister of Integration, hugely responsible for the downfall of the second Balkenende government, the past summer. Enough reasons for me to stamp the VVD as the Scary People Party.
Mark Rutte won the party's leadership by a hair from Rita Verdonk, mostly because of the debacle Verdonk created over Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Still, Verdonk is prominently number two and over the course of past weeks it's becoming clear that Rutte is perceived as weak and the party is completely divided and held hostage by the Verdonk faction. Polls still have the VVD at a loss, and the party is increasingly pinched between the popular CDA and the populist nonsense paddled by the hard right factions.
A strange duck in this pond. Morally, they're far more conservative than VVD and CDA and follow the Bible as their soundboard. Although they try to avoid the subjects, it's clear that ChristenUnie would prefer to see abortion, euthanasia and coffee-shops scrapped as quickly as possible. Socially, however, they've developed a remarkable program, including thoughts on a sustainable energy policy, a reasonable humane integration policy, and a call to stop all subsidising on sugar, rice, diary products.
They're up in the polls, probably attracting voters disappointed by the CDA's lack of social policy. In fact, their social program is so different than that of the VVD, Mark Rutte has already announced he'd not be able to cooperate with ChristenUnie as a coalition partner. (Although this is generally macho-talk happening every time before an election, it underlines how far the VVD and ChristenUnie stand from each other.) You could just as easily class the ChristianUnion as a conservative party at the left.
SGP (Political Reformed Party)
The Dutch Christian Fundies. They are the oldest political party, have never been in the government and for as long as I remember are stuck with two to three seats in parliament. Perhaps they could have twice as many seats, if the party wasn't constantly proclaiming that women have no role in politics and shouldn't be entitled to vote. Most of their adherents come forth from the Dutch Bible Belt. At the county-level, SGP often joins forces with the ChristenUnie, but in this election the ChristenUnie has refused to go together. This may have something to do with the fact that many find the SGP simply too extreme. Hopefully by 2050 the party will finally collapse under the influence of inbreeding and sheer stupidity.
Good grief. We've at least three of those idiot splinter parties, all new. I'll do this succinctly.
The remnants of the Pim Fortuyn party, which surged to 26 seats in 2002 after the murder of Fortuyn, became part of the first Balkenende government which collapsed after 87 days of turmoil and hugely embarrassing internal strife. The Hague had never before resembled so much like an Italian mob struggling for power. The party has never given up smearing their own people and backstabbing. They've re-branded the party, put up a new MBA figurehead (completely ignored by the media) and polls show that they will most likely lose all 8 of their remaining seats. Good riddance.
EénNL (Hard-Right, former Fortuynists)
However, from out of the ashes, comes Marco Pastors from Rotterdam, where Fortuyn made furore with his local party at first. He has joined forces with another Fortuynist, Eerdmans and they both carry out former Fortuynist viewpoints. It should be said, though, that I find Eerdmans actually quite a respectable politician. He has practically vilified the CDA for not changing anything in the bio-industry. His choices on immigration and integration, however, bring him to the right of the spectre.
Groep Wilders / Partij voor de Vrijheid (Wilders Group, former VVD)
And last but not least, there is Geert Wilders. Who doesn't know him? An ex-VVD man who split of from the party when the VVD decided to start EU membership negotiations with Turkey. He's now channelling every possible medium to warn that the Netherlands stand at the eve of a "tsunami of islamisation" (he actually said that). Extremely libertarian, it's no wonder he flirts with the Republicans within the States. Opposes further EU enlargements (including Bulgaria and Rumania!!!!) and wants to scrap the European Parliament. Incredibly, he polls consistently at four, five seats. Loony Tunes at work.
If there's any relief in this quartet of idiots, it's that the gang of extreme right nationalist have not been able to peep in. I'd almost say, there's no need for them anymore.
Will the Dutch political left be any better? Find out tomorrow, after I have taken another bath.