It’s the Dutch legislative elections tomorrow. If you rely on the British media for your info on this you’re probably thinking the Netherlands is the place likely to see the next populist domino fall into place. Geert Wilders’ PVV (Freedom Party) has for some time been touted as likely to ‘win’ the Dutch elections.
However, there are two problems with the simple picture painted by journalists obsessed with far right populism. First, our media seem to be constitutionally incapable of coping with multi-party election systems. Anything more than a two-protagonist contest and they start to struggle badly. Which is why they love US presidential elections. And why on Monday they homed in with a collective sigh of relief on a simple head to head debate between the leaders of the two parties that are polling strongest in the Netherlands. What they didn’t tell us was that at the other televised election debates, between seven and ten party leaders were invited. That includes tonight’s final eve-of-poll debate, which features eight parties.
The second problem is that ‘win’ in the context of an electoral system that guarantees a fully proportional result, is not quite the same as ‘win’ in our electoral system, which became unfit for purpose around 1900. The leading party in the Netherlands, according to recent polls, is on around 17% of the vote. Moreover, that party isn’t the PVV, but the VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy). This is an economically neo-liberal, centre-right party positioned roughly between our Lib Dems and Tories.
Wilders’ PVV is at 15%, not that much more than Ukip’s 13% share in the 2015 General Election, although enough to give it a lot more seats. Admittedly, for the PVV this is an increase (of about 5%) on its showing in the last Dutch elections in 2012. On the latest polling it’s set to gain 7-9 seats.
While you wouldn’t know it from the BBC, another party is poised to gain even more – from 10-16 seats if the polls are accurate. This is the GroenLinks, or Green Left Party. Funny how we haven’t heard too much about them in the British media, even though their support has risen over the course of the campaign to record levels. They’re not that far behind the four parties vying to become the largest in the Dutch Parliament. Together with the VVD and PVV these are the CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal), the traditional centre-right moderate conservative party and D66, a centrist party similar to the Lib Dems.
The big loser in the Dutch elections looks likely to be the centre-left Labour Party, forecast to lose between 25-30 of its current 38 seats. A lesson here for those who put their faith in the ideologically very similar British Labour Party perhaps. The combined support for the two parties to the left of Labour (GroenLinks and the Socialist Party) leads to predictions of around 30 seats. This compares with the 22 predicted for Wilders’ PVV. But this is something you’d never guess from our media.