It is clear that the liberal/social-democrat Purple government has been severely punished. The government parties lost in total 44 seats in the 150 seat parliament.
Provisional statement by Offensief, Dutch section of the CWI, issued 16th of May 2002
The biggest blow was for the social-democrats (PvdA), which lost almost half its seats: from 45 to 23, as its vote fell by nearly one million votes to 1,217,700. Party leader Melkert, who until a few months ago seemed to become the new minister president, has resigned. They will have trouble finding a new leader, since Melkert was destined to be the follow up for Wim Kok. The decline of the electoral base for the social-democrats is part of an European development. The social-democracy took the leading role in the government. As a result of their neo-liberal policies in voters eyes the social-democrats hardly differenced themselves from openly rightwing bourgeois parties.
At the same time we see a huge discontent in society, as a result of massive disappointment with eight years of Purple governments, and the rise and killing of the extreme-right populist Pim Fortuyn. We see the beginnings of a sharp polarisation of society between left and right.
Many took a change by voting for the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF, now entering the parliament with 26 seats), now the second biggest party with over 1,415,000 votes. As we write the tension inside the LPF is increasing over who will take over the leadership of the party after the murder on Pim Fortuyn. It is a question whether the parliamentary fraction of the LPF (the party isn’t actually more then the parliamentary representation it has) will remain stable. Additionally not all the LPF’s voters support its right wing policies and really used it as a protest vote, something which also makes it unstable.
At the same time, many other voters sought stability, and saw in the Christian-democrats (CDA) an answer to the Purple government’s failures, with the result that its vote rose by nearly 900,000. This is despite the CDA not making much opposition recently, and in spite of it being humiliated in 1994 by the voters after having been part of Dutch governments for over 75 years.
The Dutch Socialist Party (SP, inside which Offensief operates as a left, marxist trend, including four local councillors who are in the CWI), almost doubled its parliamentary representation: from 5 to 9 seats! Its vote rose from 253,600 to 458,750, 3.5 % of the votes in 1998 to 5.9 % now.
This was a very credible result, especially since the SP as all other parties cancelled its election campaigning after the killing of Fortuyn. And campaigning is the traditional strength of the SP.
This increase in votes shows that being in opposition against the government and it’s neo-liberal policies pays off. In fact, the SP understood the emotions of many LPF-voters, but attacked the extreme neo-liberal ideas of its leader Pim Fortuyn.
Interestingly, Green Left (a reformist party, made up by pacifists and ex-stalinists), barely kept its 11 seats, its actual vote only growing by just under 30,000, despite a stronger growth being predicted. Their failure to significantly increase was a result of their campaign presenting themselves as a possible left ally for a new Purple government.
Although not much can be predicted right now, it seems that on initiative by the now biggest party, the CDA, a centre-right government will be formed, including the rightwing liberal VVD and the LPF. But there is however a great deal of uncertainty, with the VVD having lost 15 seats (now 23 left, just as the PvdA) and the unstability of the LPF. The forming of the new coalition could be a very long process.
The Dutch SP has made the next step in its development to a new mass workers’ party. A small, and by no means final step, but the SP starts to fill up the vacuum that the social-democrats left over and Green Left were not able or willing to fill. Therefore the SP, which has the opportunity to become the pole of attraction for the people that oppose the new government’s attacks that will definitely come about, will have to focus on putting forward the socialist alternative, organising the resistance and educating it’s members to turn them into cadres.
The work of Offensief, to join the SP to find a broader audience for our Marxist ideas, and our prognosis about the role that the SP could play, has been vindicated!
It seems that what seems to be solid for ages in society, has become fluid once it’s put under serious pressure: it shows the energy to change things is there. Now it’s our task to seize these opportunities!