Campaign Update (16 March)

The last full day of campaigning has just begun in the Netherlands, culminating on another lead candidate debate . Participating parties will be: VVD, PVV, CDA, D66, GroenLinks, SP, PvdA and ChristenUnie – instead of being a lengthy free-for-all, the format will be based upon a series of head-to-head mini-debates; each candidate will take part in two of these. These eight leaders have been bumping into each all over the media, so what it comes down to at this point is who they’ve been matched up to – ideally someone they can contrast with and get a few good lines in rather than one of their allies with whom they mostly agree. The match-ups are as follows:

  • Sigrid Kaag (D66) and Geert Wilders (PVV)
  • Lilian Marijnissen (SP) and Lilianne Ploumen (PvdA)
  • Wopke Hoekstra (CDA) and Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks)
  • Mark Rutte (VVD) and Geert Wilders (PVV)
  • Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) and Gert-Jan Segers (ChristenUnie)
  • Sigrid Kaag (D66) and Lilian Marijnissen (SP)
  • Lilianne Ploumen (PvdA) and Gert-Jan Segers (ChristenUnie)
  • Wopke Hoekstra (CDA) and Mark Rutte (VVD)

Unsurprisingly, some candidates benefit more from these one-on-ones than others. Hoekstra gets a rematch of his disastrous showing against Klaver and can attempt to challenge Rutte again. Kaag can present herself as the sensible centre against Wilders and then Marijnissen. Seger probably would have wanted a go at Hoekstra as the ChristenUnie has long questioned like how Christian the CDA is, and Ploumen would have preferred to face at least one of Hoekstra, Wilders or Rutte, but instead has to make do with Segers and Marijnissen. However, the final debate has proved to be a vote-changer in the past, shifting a few seats here and there, so you can expect the candidates to try to find some way to produce at least a few soundbites for news bulletins on election day.

Confusion with postal voting (for those over 70) has become serious enough for Minister Kajsa Ollongren (D66) to issue a direction to allow some incorrectly cast ballots to be counted anyway. If a voter placed the declaration card in the same envelope as their ballot, the vote will still be counted as staff are only supposed to check that the card has been signed and do not need to unfold the ballot paper until a later stage. With some councils reporting up to 8% of postal votes falling into this category, if no action were taken this could ultimately result in around a seat’s worth of invalid votes, be double the average amount in elections past. In a somewhat related matter, concerns have been raised about the turnout among prisoners (inmates can vote in the Netherlands unless otherwise specified in their sentence). Due to coronavirus restrictions, it won’t be possible to undertake the usual practice of establishing a polling booth in each prison, meaning that prisoners who don’t qualify for a postal vote can only authorise someone else to vote on their behalf. Setting this up isn’t necessarily a difficult process in itself, but arranging for a member of one’s family or friend is something which can be fraught for all sorts of reasons for those on the inside.

Lastly, today a new poll was released by I&O Research which has shifted the Peilingwijzer to confirm the trend of the VVD slipping back towards its 2017 result of 33 seats. The current range has them at 34-38 seats. D66 has improved their position, but are still heading for a small loss compared the 2017. In fact, the only parties which seem almost certain to gain are the PvdA, ChristienUnie, PvdD, FvD and the two newcomers: JA21 and Volt. The latter party in particular, is making waves and probably snapping up some traditional GroenLinks and other pro-EU voters. The Peilingwijzer gives them a chance of winning up to five seats, which would be an impressive debut. We can probably expect another poll or two tomorrow.