Campaign Update (4 March)

There’s some chatter on how the latest opinion polls have the VVD on a slow slide in comparison to previous polls from earlier this year and late 2020. Part of it no doubt is a result of increasing discontent with the ongoing restrictions, which inevitably comes back to Mark Rutte as the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, these former VVD voters haven’t exactly thrown their weight behind a single party, as others have only gained marginally from these nominal defections. It’s a difficult narrative to work with for journalists: barring some massive polling error or catastrophic event in the next two weeks, the largest parties look to have settled in a finishing order remarkably similar to the results of 2017, with the only stories worth mentioning at this stage (aside from the VVD remaining the largest party by quite some distance) being that the PvdA looks like it will overtake GroenLinks by a seat or two to retake its crown as the largest party on the left (although still a shadow of what it could usually expect to poll), and that Forum voor Democratie, while definitely not approaching the giddy heights of the provincial elections in 2019, may still end up returning with a few more seats than 2017. This is hardly the stuff of bold headlines and breathless reporting.

Dutch politics isn’t a place where you see a lot of money being thrown around, but two large donations were revealed today that will have raised eyebrows. D66 received a donation of 1 million euros from tech-billionaire Steven Schuurman, who also donated 350,000 euros to the PvdD, saying simply that these two parties appealed to him the most, especially in terms of their plans to combat climate change. (Dutch electoral law requires all donations of 4,500 euros to be made public.) And while we’re on money and tech matters, it was revealed that the CDA has spent the most on digital advertising so far, with a budget of over 130,000 euros. This is almost double that of the next big spender: D66, with around 70,000 euros. In contrast, the VVD has only allocated 11,000 euros for online advertising, while the PVV spends almost nothing on digital ads, confident that party leader Geert Wilders has enough following on his social media accounts to be able to spread his message for free. With over 856,000 followers on Twitter, Wilders leaves his fellow lead candidates in the dust: only Jesse Klaver of GroenLinks (283,000) and Thierry Baudet of Forum voor Democratie (251,000) rise above the pack.

An easing of some of the coronavirus-related restrictions meant that hairdressers were able to re-open yesterday, apparently leading to a scramble by a number of politicians: Geert Wilders (PVV), Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks), Tunahan Kuzu (Denk) and Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) were among those posting on Instagram from their favourite barbershop. Mark Rutte (VVD) usually books his hairdressing appointments on Saturdays, so we might see an update from him then.