segunda-feira, 13 de março de 2017
3 biggest Dutch election myths
3 biggest Dutch election myths
If you think this week’s vote is all about Geert Wilders, populism and the EU, think again.
By NAOMI O'LEARY 3/13/17, 4:30 AM CET Updated 3/13/17, 8:01 AM CET
AMSTERDAM — As Dutch voters go to the polls this week, one thing is clear: There is a gulf between how the election is seen abroad and the view within the country. Whereas foreign observers see a yet another big test of the postwar political order in Europe, for the Dutch, the vote is much less dramatic.
Rather than being a winner-takes-all contest with a clear outcome like the Brexit vote or the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, this is a vote with 28 parties on the ballot, several of which will likely need to enter a coalition to rule — a disadvantage for populist firebrand Geert Wilders who looms large internationally but who at home has found it harder to capture the spotlight.
This year, the spectrum of political parties is even more splintered than usual. At the moment, no single party has more than 20 percent in an average of polls. The parties that dominated in the past struggle to command broad support, while a range of small parties target specific chunks of the electorate. There is one party for people aged over 50, another for animals, and even one for non-voters.
Yet even with such a colorful range of parties to choose from, the tone of the debate has largely been measured. The election has not developed into a clear contest between the two biggest parties, like campaigns in the past.
“There will be a multicoalition government. Three, four, many even five parties. It’s exciting from a nerdy political point of view” — Jan Vos, Labour Party lawmaker
“Everyone is waiting for the fireworks,” said Koen Vossen, a political scientist at Radboud University Nijmegen. “They’re all playing defensively. It’s like a football match where it’s nil-nil.”
In advance of the March 15 election, here is a primer on some of the most common misconceptions.
1. A vote about the EU
Though Brexit and Nexit are often spoken of in the same breath, the U.K. referendum to leave the EU has hardly fueled the Euroskeptic movement in the Netherlands. If anything, it has had the opposite effect as the Dutch observe how the British experiment plays out.
Following the U.K. vote in June, the level of support for leaving the EU among Dutch voters dropped, according to government think tank SCP, and debate about Nexit has largely died down. The only major party in favor of leaving the EU, Wilders’ Freedom Party, has toned down its Brussels-bashing compared with the last election and focused instead on the issues of migration and culture.
That doesn’t mean the Dutch are entirely sanguine about the EU and there has been a debate about how the Union should be reformed. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) party wants to put a brake on any further enlargement of the EU club to include new members and limit Brussels’ powers. On the left, the Greens want an EU that is stronger but more democratic.
2. A vote about Wilders
Wilders, a far-right nationalist politician who has long argued against immigration and Islam, is the leading story internationally.
In the Netherlands? Not so much.
For a variety of reasons — security, a lack of funds, a fight with television producers — Wilders has been notably absent from the campaign trail.
In February, Wilders canceled all public appearances after an officer tasked with protecting him reportedly leaked information about his whereabouts to a Moroccan criminal gang. And Wilders pulled out of a television debate last month in anger after the broadcaster RTL interviewed his brother, Paul, who has been critical of him.
In the past, Wilders has restricted his appearances as a tactic to create excitement when he does appear and his absence may be intended to build interest in a final debate between Wilders and Rutte two nights before the vote.
But Vossen, an expert on the Freedom Party, says there could be a simpler explanation. “Where the other parties have invested thousands in a campaign with professional ads, a whole strategy, and a whole professional bureau of consultants that work for them, Wilders really has nothing,” Vossen said. “He doesn’t have any money, his personnel is maybe 50 people in the whole country. It’s not much. Maybe there are a few hundred people at most who are willing to put up posters.”
Whatever the reason, Wilders’ subtle campaign has not helped him in the polls: In the past month, his support has dropped from 17 percent to 13.5 percent in the Peilingwijzer average of polls.
3. A populist uprising
The Dutch election is often spoken of in the context of two recent political upheavals: Brexit and the election of Trump.
But don’t expect a dramatic populist overturn of the established order in the Netherlands. Not one party currently commands more than 17 percent support.
If the polls hold true, as many as five parties will have to come together to reach the 76 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament.
Wilders campaigns on March 8 in Breda | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Geert Wilders campaigns on March 8 in Breda | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Wilders’, currently forecast to win between 19 and 23 seats, is unlikely to be one of them, given that he’s deeply unpopular with the other political leaders, having insulted them and included apparently unconstitutional promises such as banning the Koran in his election program.
“We don’t know who is going to win,” said Jan Vos, a lawmaker with the center-left Labour Party. “There will be a multi-coalition government. Three, four, many even five parties. It’s exciting from a nerdy political point of view.”
Everything could change on election day. The Dutch are notorious for making up their minds late.
André Krouwel, a political scientist at the Free University of Amsterdam, said the breakdown of how the 150 seats in the lower house will be allocated will remain unclear right up to the election.
“Until the last day even up to 20 percent are still undecided. Even on the way to the polling booth, 3 percent still decide there,” Krouwel said. “About 60 seats could be uncertain.”