[Marxism] Juriaan Bendien on the Dutch elections

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 26 13:56:34 MST 2006

From: Jurriaan Bendien 
Sent: Nov 26, 2006 3:36 PM
To: walterlx at earthlink.net
Subject: Dutch elections

I am a member of the SP, but not an active member on the campaign
trail. In the final count, the SP lost one seat to the Labour Party,
so we get 25 seats. not 26. This compares to 9 seats in the previous
elections. In France, 17% of voters intend to vote for Le Pen
according to Le Monde last Friday (this is double the number in the
first round of French elections in 2002). In general, the political
polarisation seems to be accelerating now in Europe, with roughly 
a quarter of voters being hard right and about a quarter hard left.

The additional SP votes came mainly from people who previously 
voted for the Labour Party (PvdA), Green Left or Fortuynist. The Dutch
Liberals (VVD) lost votes mainly to the Christian Democrats and to
Geert Wilders. Possibly many liberal voters voted for the Christian
Democrats to prevent a Labour Party premier. Because the Christian
Democrats received the largest single block of votes, they initiate
coalition negotations.

But the (Blairite) Labour Party is reluctant to shut out the SP from
these negotiations, both because the SP will continue to eat away at
Labour's support base, and because of the large shift to the left in
the elections. One question is whether the SP will be able to hold on
to its enlarged voter support in future. Because the coalition
negotiations are still beginning, it is not yet possible to say 
very much about the significance of the election result.


Balkenende claims Dutch poll victory
By Ian Bickerton in Amsterdam for the UK Financial Times

Published: November 22 2006 20:16 
| Last updated: November 23 2006 08:10

Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democratic
Alliance (CDA) on Thursday emerged as the single biggest party in
parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, but faced protracted
negotiations to form a coalition as voters shifted away from centrist
parties to the far-left and far-right.

The left-wing Socialist Party almost trebled its tally of seats to
26, while the hard-right party of Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam
campaigner forced to live in hiding because of death threats, will
have nine MPs in the 150-seat parliament.

Mr Wilders said the result justified a seat at the negotiating table
when the leaders of the main parties meet on Thurday to begin talks
to form a coalition government.

Mr Wilders' campaign, grounded in the populist policies of Pim
Fortuyn, the murdered right-winger, harvested half a million votes.
"We have enough Islam and enough mosques in the Netherlands. That was
an important part of our election programme but there was also much
more," beamed Mr Wilders.

But he reacted angrily as it appeared mainstream parties were minded
to ignore his demands to be involved in negotiations, claiming he was
being "shut out".

Jan Marijnissen, veteran SP leader, described the result as "an
historic day for the Netherlands" and said it showed the Dutch had
rejected the harsh policies of Mr Balkenende's centre-right
government. He is likely also to play a role in coalition talks.

It was a theme echoed by Wouter Bos, PvdA leader, who, while clearly
disappointed that his party polled 10 fewer seats than three years
ago, nonetheless took comfort in the swing to the left evident in the
SP result.

Mr Balkenende told his cheering supporters: "We went for gold and we
won gold." His CDA won 41 seats to 32 for the main opposition social
democrat PvdA. Both lost seats, compared with the 2003 election, as
voting polarised.

The big loser was the liberal VVD, Mr Balkenende's ally in his three
previous governments. It has struggled to stamp a clear identity for
itself since Rita Verdonk, the hardline immigration minister, lost a
leadership contest to the youthful Mark Rutte, and was set to lose
its place as the third-largest Dutch political party to SP.

Charles Kalshoven, an economist at ABN Amro, said: "The polls show
that it is less crowded in the centre and more crowded at the
extremes. Wilder's party and the SP are the big winners. It is going
to make it difficult to form a new government."

Piet-Hein Donner, former CDA justice minister, agreed: "We see a move
to the fringes. Whoever pulls together a coalition will have a very
hard time transforming it into a good government agenda."

An alliance of CDA and PvdA remains the most likely basis for a
coalition but ii too failed to secure a parliamentary majority -
thereby requiring support from another party.

What is more, economists note significant differences in policy that
could complicate coalition negotiations.

Aline Schuiling, an economist at Fortis Bank, said: "The areas in
which CDA and PvdA disagree [now] are larger than the areas on which
they agree." PvdA wants to raise taxes on business, for example,
while the CDA would hike household tax. There may also be a clash
over PvdA demands for an inquiry into the information upon which the
Dutch backed the US-led invasion of Iraq and a general pardon for
asylum seekers resident in the Netherlands.

D66, the centrist party whose resignation from the government in June
in a row over the handling of the citizenship of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the
anti-Islam campaigner and former MP, forced the election, also lost
half its 6 seats. The rump of the party founded by Mr Fortuyn was
wiped out. The turnout was 80.1per cent of the 12m voters,
fractionally higher than in 2003.

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