Campaign Update (8 March)

With it being Sunday – still a day of rest in the Netherlands, although not as much as it was when I lived there in the late 1990s and early 2000s – I’m going to spend this post talking about how trends in the polls over the last year. Once again, I’m using data from Peilingwijzer, the polling aggregator which weighs the results of the three main pollsters in the Netherlands: I&O Research, Ipsos, and Kantar. The table below compares the parties movements over the last year, since the pandemic began. The margin of error is estimated to be roughly two seats either direction for the parties with at least 10 seats, and one seat either direction for parties with fewer than 10 seats.

PARTYMARCH 2020MARCH 2021
VVD2939
PVV1719
CDA1318
D661014
GroenLinks1612
SP910
PvdA1513
ChristenUnie76
PvdD66
50Plus102
SGP33
Denk12
FvD144
JA211
Volt1

The first thing worth noting is that the current government (VVD, CDA, D66, ChristenUnie) is on 77 seats, which is a small but workable majority. It is quite unusual for this to happen, especially given the childcare benefits scandal and the increased level of discontent with the coronavirus restrictions. However, Mark Rutte’s image as a calm crisis manager is the primary reason why the VVD is so far ahead of the others. Even though the VVD has slipped a bit in recent polls, on these numbers it will still increase its representation by six seats in comparison to the 2017 election result.

The fall from grace of the FvD appears to have sent voters back to the VVD, PVV and maybe the CDA – Baudet didn’t do himself any favours by buying into coronavirus conspiracy theories at a time when the population wanted stable, competent government with a focus on controlling the pandemic. Geert Wilders’s PVV was smart enough to centre its opposition on the severity of lockdown measures rather than whether the virus was a thing to begin with.

Among the left there has been very little movement in the last year – a small shift away from GroenLinks, possibly to D66 as an experienced governing party with decent progressive credentials. While the PvdA will almost certainly increase their representation from the current nine seats, it’s worth keeping in mind that the 2017 result was their worst ever, so there really was only one way to go. If a party on the left plays any role in the next government, it will probably be as the last piece of the puzzle to get to the minimum majority of 76. Hence, the reluctance of parties like GroenLinks and the PvdA to be the only one on the left to join the VVD and CDA – they know that any benefit they might receive from governing with them will be negligible in comparison to the heat they’d face from their rivals.

Lastly, the smallest parties give a good example of what infighting can do. FvD was meant to be a medium-sized party but looks like it will end up with a small handful of seats after many key members split late last year. Similarly, 50Plus will be lucky to end up with much at all after losing charismatic leader Henk Krol, who has started his own party. Denk seem to have survived and repaired their bout of infighting, but seem unlikely to attract more than their very specific group of backers from migrant backgrounds. The ChristenUnie and SGP also have a small group of supporters, but these have shown to be incredibly loyal over many election cycles, guaranteeing these parties a certain number of seats just by how well they can turn these people out to the polls. The Partij voor de Dieren (PvdD) appears to have found its niche in Dutch politics as they broaden their horizons beyond animal welfare, but their policies for a radical re-thinking of the way the Netherlands operates is a step too far for many voters, who are used to Dutch politics having a more incremental approach to matters. As for the new parties like JA21 (FvD splinter party) and Volt (pan-European, pro-EU), we’ll just have a to wait and see, but neither look like they’ll enter the Tweede Kamer with anything more than a seat or two.