Saturday

24th Feb 2018

Opinion

How to stop the collapse of the Dutch left

  • Traditional Dutch windmill and a billboard with the many fragmented Dutch political parties. (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The Dutch elections did not herald a populist spring in Europe. So much for the good news.

Contrary to the prevailing coverage in foreign media, the takeaway of the Dutch elections should not be that Wilders' PVV party didn't acquire a leading position - this was to be expected - or that the 30-year-old green candidate, Jesse Klaver, won ten seats (this was, however laudable, largely at the expense of other left-wing parties).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The key takeaway should rather be the consolidation of conservative and right-wing liberal parties in the Netherlands, and the further fragmentation of the political landscape.

The left-wing parties of PvdA (S&D), Groen-Links (Greens) and SP (GUE) have taken fewer seats altogether in the parliament than the PvdA had in its past mandate: 37 vs 38. They now represent less than a quarter of the votes.

The collapsing left

How did the left collapse so badly?

One strand of thought considers the disappearing dichotomy between left and right on socio-economic issues. Some see this as a structural tendency, whereas others see this as a temporary phenomenon.

The liberal-conservative VVD and the social-democrat PvdA were the biggest adversaries in the 2012 election, but the coalition government of these two parties minimised the differences between them.

Indeed, a demonstration of the differences – on many issues such as tax avoidance, bankers’ bonus, flexible labour contract, and so on – is necessary for the voters to see the dichotomy, and it is necessary for the election campaign to revolve around socio-economic issues.

Another strand of thought points to the ongoing fragmentation of the political landscape.

The Socialist Party of Emile Roemer has been competing with the charismatic new kid, Jesse Klaver, to draw in disenchanted PvdA voters.

Yet only 10 of the 29 seats that were lost went to either of the two left-wing parties according to IPSOS, a research firm.

In fact, it was very clear that neither of these two parties were good alternatives. Some voters turned to Liberal party D66, which takes a position in the middle, and some did not turn up to the ballot boxes at all.

New parties

Others found their way to relatively new parties.

For instance, ‘Denk’ won three seats from voters with non-Dutch ethnic backgrounds, mainly Turkish and Moroccan. 50+, a party that focuses on upset pensioners, increased its share to four seats. Finally, the animal party - a mixed bag of extreme left, ecologists and EU sceptics - captured a further five seats.

Yet, Mr. Rutte did not suffer from the fragmentation, even though there has been a flurry of new right-wing parties. Despite having lost eight seats, his liberal-conservative VVD remains in an unchallenged pole position.

It is surprising to see how tepidly many among the left have responded to this defeat, sharing in the Europe-wide sigh of relief after holding off Geert Wilders.

It could be said that the decline of the left is a mix of both tendencies. The PvdA has not been able to contrast with and confront the right-wing Mark Rutte, and the scattering of the political field into special interest parties has paralysed and diluted the left.

The result

So, we will face a third term of a prime minister whose party has taken no measures on climate change. A party that pursues an active agenda of making our country more unequal. A party that celebrates the blessings of tax avoidance (under the euphemism of ‘positive investment climate’).

A party that greedily adopts the belligerent anti-immigration language of Geert Wilders, to pay lip service to his potential voters.

Wilders won five seats and lost any prospect of governing, but his biggest win is that he lured people into believing that the elections were a struggle between right and far-right

After two decades of right-wing prime ministers, there is a tremendous amount of work to do for the left to make the Netherlands more inclusive, more equal and more socially just.

The onus will be on a broad left-wing movement that can connect people beyond special interests and that dares to confront and contrast with the right.

Let’s start our fight.

Paul Tang is a Dutch MEP from the Socialists & Democrats Group in the European Parliament and a member of the Labour Party (PvdA) in the Netherlands.

EU relieved by Dutch centre-right win

EU leaders breathe sigh of relief in phone calls and tweets after Dutch centre-right comes ahead of anti-EU party in "quarterfinal" elections.

Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme

Growth predictions are positive, exports increasing, unemployment dropping and credit-ratings up, says the head of Greece's Syriza delegation to the European Parliament. Now the government in Athens is looking to design its own reform programme.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?