Dutch elections on June 9 have resulted in a shocking victory of right wing parties. The political Right, however, will not find it easy to form a government. Divisions and conflicts between them hinders the quick formation for a coalition government between them. Meanwhile, the Left – divided as well, and battered by defeat – is clinging to the kind of parliamentary illusions that helped to bring that defeat. At the same time, the number of non-voters – a sign of deep disaffection with all the parties – has grown. An aggressive, triumphant but fragmented Right; a weakened Left; budget cuts from whatever government will ben formed; an economic crisis that is dragging on; and a workers’ movement showing signs of reviving miltancy (see earlier article on this blog); it is an explosive mix, with great dangers as well as small but significant opportunities for workers who want to fight back.
The right wing liberal VVD became the biggest party, with 31 seats in a 150-seat Second Chamber of Parliament (lower house, basically, or house of representatives if one prefers). The extreme right PVV, led by islamophobic racist Geert Wilders, grew from 9 to 24 seats, much more thatn opinion polls in recent weeks indicated. Another right wing party, the christian democrat CDA, lost badly. Their voters deserted this party to the other big right wing parties. Bad leadership by prime minister J.P. Balkenende played a part in this. At least as important was the fact that the CDA was part of a rather weak government, together with the social democratic PvdA. VVD and PVV were in opposition, and succeeded in drawing disaffected voters – to the right.
The PvdA social democrats lost, but not that much. Bigger losers were the somewhat more left wing Socialist Party, who lost 10 of its 25 seats. Eagerness to govern meant that they diluted their earlier radical posture. The difference with PvdA became less and less visible, voters – afraid of the VVD becoming the biggest party – were tactically drawn to the PvdA who became almost as big as the VVD. A third left wing party, the Green Left (GL), gained three seats, partly, no doubt, because they took a rather strongh anti-racist line aginst Wilders. On the whole, however, GL is drifting rightwards, accepting the need of ‘flexible labour markets’, and not really opposing a probable raise in retirement years.
Formation of a government is going to be difficult. VVD, PVV and CDA – an open right wing coalition, a horror scenario – has a narrow parliamentary majority. But especially the CDA is not keen on PVV participation. They probably remember the party of Pim Fortuyn which participated in a government with CDA and VVD in 2002, after the murder of its leader. That government became a laughing stock, a permanet cabaret on tour, because of all the quarrels and little scandals, before collapsing withing eight months. CDA politicians want stability and harmony, not a repeat performance of this vaudeville.
Another problem is the First Chamber of Parliament, the upper house or senate, which constitutionally has to pass bills after the more important second chamber has passed them. That chamber is indirectly elected – but not at the same time as the second chamber. Senate elections will only come in 2011. Until that moment, the victorious PVV has no seats in the first chamber, and the VVD-CDA-PVV coalition lacks a majority there. Another factor opening the road to instability and uncertainty. Business circles are wary of PVV participation as well. They fear adverse reactions against Geert Wilders, who has a habit of insulting moslim people – including , for instance, the Turkish prime minister. That is bad for business, bosses’ boss Wientjes has sternly warned.
Other coalitions are not easy as well. VVD, PvdA, D66 and GL is a possibility. D66, by the way, is another neoliberal party, but more relaxed than the VVD on issues like immigration and Islam. What they have in common, all four of them, is the acceptance op neoliberal policies. However, on the issue of how big the coming budget cust should be, they are quite far apart. And on issues like immigration, VVD and especially GL are not close as well, although eagerness to govern may soften any principled attitude that GL still has. An unlikely coalition it certainly is. An impossible coalition it is not.
Is there anything to choose between them, from a left wing perspective? I don’t think so. First, both coalitions will go for very severe austerity policies. Capital, business forces, the financial markets will simply force any government that might hesitate. Diofferent coalitions, almost same policies, in this regard.
Yes, a right wing coalition whcih includes the PVV is a horrible prospect. It would legitimise Wilders’party – a party which expresses a form of fascism-in-the-making. One shudders if Geert Wilders or one of his clones becomes minister of Security or something like that. If, in such an event, riots break ouit in protest, I will not only understand and agree with the rioters. I might become one of them.
But a weak and divided coalition without the PVV is extremely dangerous as well. It will allow the PVV even more time and space to continue their right wing opposition. In case that government falls – as it might do quickly, considering the divisions within such a government – the PVV can look forward to an even biggen electoral victory, maybe encouraged by a beginning PVV street movement. One PVV member is already talking about creating a youth section of the PVV. We should be extremely careful.
There is reason for serious worry and concern. However, panic isn’t called for. Recent strikes show that there is a mood to fight among groups of workers. This mood can grow and translate itself in much bigger protests when the size and content of coming austerity policies of the next gevernments become clear. Dark times, indeed, but not hopeless times.
“The Netherlands shifts to the right”, NRC, 10 June (the NRC is one of the important Dutch mainstream newspapers, with an English-language section)
Peter Schwartz, “Right wing shift in Dutch elections”, World Socialist Website (WSWS), 12 June; WSWS is a Trotsyist website that often contains ghood news summmaries with a bit of sensible analysis. In this case the comparison between Ducth and among others, Hungarian electons (also resulting in a shift to the right). The article warns of the danger of the extreme right. The last sentence, calling for the buiulding of a Trotskyite party and so on, can safely be ignored. The rest is worth taking reading.