Sunday

22nd Apr 2018

Focus

Dutch parties dress in same colours at EU level

  • Different at home but not so different in the EU parliament (Photo: European Parliament)

In a recent speech, Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld tried to distinguish her liberal-democrat party D66 from Liberal and Labour, the two parties that are currently in a national government coalition.

Speaking about the way forward for the European Union, she said: "Cosmetic changes, which Liberal and Labour suggest, are not enough. A new Treaty is needed."

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The D66 and Liberal parties compete politically at the national level, but the five representatives of those parties all sit together in the European Parliament. The three D66 deputies and their two Liberal colleagues are part of the same political group – the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

And while they might snipe at each other at home, an analysis of their EU voting behaviour shows they are more alike than their domestic rhetoric might lead you to believe.

This website compared the voting behaviour of all 26 Dutch MEPs.

The comparison showed that D66 and Liberal are the two Dutch parties whose MEPs have the most similar voting behaviour.

One of the Liberal MEPs, Jan Mulder, has more in common with D66 MEPs than with his fellow Liberal. His voting pattern matches D66 MEP's In 't Veld (93 percent), Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (93 percent), and Marietje Schaake (92 percent) more than Hans van Baalen (82 percent) and his former fellow Liberal MEP Toine Manders (86 percent).

Manders was an MEP for the Liberal party since 1999, but he left the Liberal party in October last year. He hopes to be re-elected to the European Parliament in May as the delegation leader for 50PLUS, a party for elderly people.

Manders is still an independent member of the ALDE group and his voting behaviour still matches the remaining two Liberal MEPs with 88 percent and 86 percent.

And despite her speech distancing herself from the Liberals, In 't Veld also voted the same as Van Baalen and Manders respectively, 84 and 85 percent of the time.

The lowest percentage of overlap of votes between a Liberal and a D66 MEP is 83 percent, the highest - where an MEP from each party voted in the same way - is 93 percent.

Although none are as high, there are other Dutch parties whose MEPs also have similar voting patterns. The voting behaviour of the three Labour MEPs, for example, matches that of the three GreenLeft MEPs between 78 and 80 percent of the time.

The MEPs farthest away from each other are Auke Zijlstra – MEP for Geert Wilders' right-wing Party for Freedom – on one side, and the three Labour MEPs on the other. Only 20 percent of the votes that Zijlstra has cast were the same as those of the Labour MEPs.

The other Party for Freedom MEPs also vote in a distinct manner. The only MEPs that have voted the same way as them more than half of the time are former Party for Freedom MEP Daniël van der Stoep and the Christian Union's Peter van Dalen. Van Dalen votes the same as Party for Freedom members between 51 and 53 percent of the time.

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Geert Wilders, arguably the most famous Dutch politician in Europe, regularly takes the EU to task for being undemocratic. But his own party is not famed for its democratic structures either.

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Dutch voters critical of the European Union will have an array of parties to choose from when they go to the polls in next month's EU elections.

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