A week from today The Netherlands goes to the polls for a general election, and the big question is how well Geert Wilders and the PVV will do. Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan sends this handy roundup of election-related information to help non-Dutch readers get a handle on the situation.
The Dutch elections
By H. Numan
On the 15th of March the Dutch will vote. The national elections are very much in the international news. The big questions are: will the PVV win? What will happen if they do?
Journalists from all over the world flock to The Netherlands to interview Wilders and to report about the elections in a couple of days. The Dutch media are blasting at Wilders with both barrels. Not only the media do what they can to avert the inevitable. So do the polls.
Let’s start here: How do you poll?, Theoretically you want to ask non-biased questions of as many people as possible all over the country, from all age and income groups. Suppose you hold a poll in a small poor rural village in Alabama: you’d get a very different outcome compared to polling the same number of people in a yuppie area of New York or Los Angeles.
The biggest problem with public opinion polls is transparency. You can read the result, but not how they got them. Especially regular political polls are, in my opinion, extremely unreliable. It’s way too easy to rig the results as desired.
If you look at the Dutch opinion pollers, I regret to say you can only find similar ilk in North Korea. The public of course changes its mind. Nothing is written in stone. But most people change their opinions for sound reasons. Not because it’s raining, or Wilders wears the wrong color of necktie. Now that we’re getting very close to the elections, the polls are pure propaganda. The PVV has led in the polls for well over a year with a very wide margin. They consistently polled +30 seats for more than a year. They peaked at 36 seats. Now, all of a sudden, some pollers dare to rig their results as low as 24 seats. In a matter of mere weeks.
That’s a drop of 12 seats. The PVV dropped more than a third in popularity. Why? Such a massive change in public opinion must have a reason. The only reason I can see is ‘we polling companies don’t want the PVV to win’. No other reason. For the past six months Wilders and his party behaved in an exemplary fashion. No ‘less, less, less!’ remarks. The PVV campaign is very well-received. Most people actually liked that short A4-sized program. Contrast this to the +350 page thick D66 program. Hardly a soul has read it. Just about everyone read what the PVV wants to do. Most people I know like it. It’s short; they don’t promise the moon on a golden platter. It’s well-calculated. And it can be done easily. There is no reason at all for the PVV to suddenly drop more than a third. None whatsoever.
On the other side, in all other political parties, there are lots of reasons to loose popularity. Instead they go up. The VVD (conservative) party, for example, blundered not once, but for more than a year. Consistently. The party leader and current premier, Mr. Rutte, broke not one but ALL of his campaign promises. Twice: in two elections he broke each and every campaign promise. Not only that, he sidelined the referendum about the Ukraine. No, he didn’t annul it. He could have done that, and it would have been perfectly legal and probably understood. He simply sidelined it with a meaningless addendum. That doesn’t sit well with lots of people. Next, he lost two justice ministers and his cabinet is racked by more scandals than Lindsey Lohan and Madonna put together. I cannot imagine that a party like that would go up in the polls. But they do.
The VVD governs in a coalition with the PvdA (labor). Labor is a lost cause. No poller dares to massage the polls in their favor. Too obvious. This coalition is a pact with the devil. From both points of view. Lots of conservative voters voted last time ‘strategically’ on the VVD to keep Wilders and the PvdA out. Same on the other side, to keep Wilders and the VVD out. The PvdA is going to pay the price for it. They currently poll around 10 seats. Only Lodewijk Asscher firmly believes he’ll win. Nobody else does. Not even his own party. The best they can hope for is to lose less than expected and call that a victory.
The CDA (Christian Democrats) do fairly well in the polls, but there are many reasons for that. First of all, the CDA has been in the opposition for eight years. Most people forgot the blundering Balkenende cabinets. His cabinets were often nicknamed Balkan Bende. A pun on his name. In Dutch, ‘bende’ can mean criminal gang of the Balkans or a big Balkan mess. He’s lecturing somewhere and people have forgotten he’s even alive. His successor Sybrand van Haersma Buma (old Frisian patrician family) has no real program to speak of, apart from ‘let’s be all nice and behave sociably’. But he is better than nothing, and the pollers must give seats from Wilders to someone, after all. The CDA controlled Dutch politics for a century. Now they are relegated to second string. They only do well because they are needed to keep Wilders out.
D66 has its share of scandals, but they are in the opposition and are firmly against Wilders. Otherwise they’d be as dead as the dodo. Mr. Alexander Pechtold has more skeletons in his cupboard than a graveyard. Nasty character. But he fights Wilders, so anything goes. One recent scandal that never forced him to retire: Wassila Hachchi.
Ms. Wassila was his mistress. He paid for her services with a seat in parliament. The relationship soured, and all of a sudden Ms Wassila resigned her seat in parliament. She collected her parliamentarian pension, and flew to America to hand out flyers for Mrs. Clinton. That made her the best-paid flyer-handler in world history. She racks in € 7500 monthly, for the coming four years. D66 was able to keep that one out of the news, mostly. Another item on their agenda is legal euthanasia for anyone over 75 years of age who wants it, and even more: for anyone who wants it. D66 is the party that wants to cut back old age pensions the most. Many people do not think it’s a coincidence they like euthanasia. The dead cannot collect pensions, can they?
Last on my list of second-string candidates is the leader of the communist party. Nowadays called Green-Left. His name is JFK: Jesse Feras Klaver. Or, as he prefers it: Jesse ‘Obama’ Klaver. He is the lookalike — no coincidence — of Justin Trudeau. He is of mixed Dutch (mother) and Moroccan (father) origin. Therefore his name is not correct. His name must be, by Moroccan law, Yasser Feras. Morocco has a list of 75 legal first names. Other first names, such as Jesse, are not acceptable. Therefore, his real name is Yasser Feras, with the Klaver part added later on. But Jesse Klaver sounds a lot better, and he is the wonder-boy of the extreme left. Until he gained too much in the polls. Newspapers found out he rigged his curriculum, copied his speeches from others and imitates Trudeau meticulously. He failed several times miserably in debates. In short, he got too big for his breeches was and cut down to size.
D66 is doing fairly well, but like Buma and Feras, Pechtold is second-string. The real fight is between Wilders and Rutte. Wilders has the support of the people, Rutte of the elite. The fight is dirty. Very dirty. Like in America, we enjoy public entertainment such as debates between candidates. One channel wanted to broadcast a debate between the four leading candidates. Days before the debate they suddenly invited a fifth party, GL’s Yasser Feras. Wilders immediately refused to debate. The agreement was with four parties, not with five. Rutte did the same; they agreed on that beforehand. Rutte’s refusal was okay. Wilders was a ‘coward’.
Wilders refused another debate. The day before, that station presented a lengthy interview with Paul Wilders, his (evil) older brother. Paul doesn’t like Geert at all. Wherever he can, he’ll say that. So that station of course offered him ample time to speak his mind. The problem is that Geert Wilders didn’t play along. The idea was to grill him over what his brother said during the debate. Didn’t happen, as Wilders was rightfully furious. Paul Wilders is retired; never went into politics. His opinion about his brother is as relevant as Fred Jr. Trump’s political views are. Not at all.
Of course Wilders is slandered widely for refusing to debate. He’s a coward, cannot debate, afraid to lose. A real dictator. That sort of thing. He’s also slandered for refusing to talk to the Dutch media. He prefers to speak to foreign media, which is much easier. Not so, said Mr. Wilders to a Dutch journalist. English-speaking media especially ask difficult questions. But they don’t try to let him walk into a trap. Wilders does speak to Dutch media, and a lot. Only not to his media enemies. And he is brave enough to say straight to their faces why he won’t come. He doesn’t hide behind feeble excuses. Oh no!
That’s doesn’t sit very well, as the media consider themselves to be the fourth power in the trias politica. He’s supposed to need them. Without his support he shouldn’t be able to win the elections. Like in America, them grapes sure are sour to swallow!
I’m pretty confident Wilders will win the election by a landslide. What really worries me is electoral fraud and the cordon sanitaire. The political rulers have made it abundantly clear they do not want or tolerate Wilders. Murdering him, like his predecessor Pim Fortuyn, is not possible. Too bleeding obvious. Voting abroad is possible, I have already done that. Interest is much larger than usual, and our hard-working civil servants cannot handle it. A coincidence? Normally they expect 45,000 voters abroad; this election +70,000 voters have registered. Many of them haven’t received their ballot. Mine was just in time, but barely. About 50,000 people can’t vote. That’s one possible seat in parliament fewer for the PVV. Not all those votes would go to the PVV, but better safe than sorry.
It’s too easy to invalidate a ballot. Color another box red, doodle a line on it. It’s no longer valid. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if after this election a lot of ballot forms will be found invalid. Not too many, of course. Just enough to keep Wilders out of office. As happened twice in Austria. I’m pretty sure that will happen, because if Wilders wins more than 40 seats, it will be almost impossible to form a coalition without him.
An option suggested is a coalition between VVD-CDA-D66-GL. The conservatives ruling together with the communists? That would mean the end of both parties. But the end justifies the means. Our political rulers have said Wilders Delenda Est, so anything goes.
It’ll be an interesting election, I’ll grant you that.
— H. Numan