Campaign Update (13 March)

Today I’m going to take a look at a few parties which haven’t featured much in my daily reports for one reason or another.

Let’s start with the Socialistische Partij (SP), which has been in a bit of a rut lately – the last election where they increased their numbers overall was 2015, when a successful provincial election campaign resulted in a gain of one seat in the Eerste Kamer (or Senate). The party has been hampered by the coronavirus-related restrictions, as a key aspect of their election campaign is doorknocking. In fact, it is so central to how the party operates that it wasn’t too long ago that a few local branches were banned from taking part in their council elections under the banner of the SP because they were deemed not to have made enough of an effort to engage with their community. Lilian Marijnissen, who took over the leadership after the 2017 election, should in theory be a voter magnet. She has a trusted surname (her father, Jan Marijnissen, led the SP into the Tweede Kamer for the first time in 1994 and to many election victories over the next decade or so), plenty of confidence, charm, and a calm approach to delivering her message. She even manages to toss out the odd zinger, most notably when she described Mark Rutte as pretending to be “self-employed”, but pointing out that when you hire him, he brings “the VVD along for free” – a biting way to describe the fact that Rutte is far more popular than his party. In any case, the problem for Marijnissen is that the SP just won’t shift in the polls. It has been on around 10 seats for a while, down from the current 14.

Arguably the most collegial head-to-head debate of the campaign was between Sigrid Kaag (D66) and Lilianne Ploumen (PvdA). While there certainly are differences between their parties, the candidates held a measured debate where they agreed upon most things. This stands in stark contrast to some of the more fiery contests, in particular the Rutte vs Wilders clashes (although it is usually Wilders who goes on the attack). However, the way these campaigns have been tracking diverges from how they are portrayed in the media. Kaag is considered to have run one of the better campaigns this time around, but the polls still have D66 on a loss of four seats. There are still a fair amount of voters yet to make up their minds, but unless polls to be released in the coming days show a significant shift it doesn’t look like the momentum will amount to much. Ploumen on the other hand doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact in terms of press coverage, but nevertheless it appears certain that the PvdA will at least win a few extra seats next week, even if this still leaves them with a very low number of MPs in the context of the party’s history. It’s entirely possible that both D66 and PvdA end up with the same number of seats when the dust clears.

Lastly, the Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals, PvdD) may have started out as a single-issue party in the early 2000s, but over the years they’ve developed a full suite of policies that just happens to place animals and the environment at its core. They’ve called their election manifesto “Plan B”, and that’s a good summary of their approach to politics. They seek a radical reworking of the Dutch economy, more so than other parties on the left. While the party is too small to appear in any of the television debates they have been growing steadily over the years at all levels of government. Lead candidate Esther Ouwehand has indicated the party is now interested in governing after many years of saying they were “too activist”, so they’ll be one to watch in the coming parliamentary term.