And Dutch voters reject the Wilders movement
The UCR Votes project started in the sociology class “New Social and Political Movements”, taught by professor Vazquez. For this course, all students have to set up an outreach project. The idea was to raise political awareness amongst UCR students – not that we lack political opinions at this place – but we wanted to see what would happen if the whole UCR population could vote for the Dutch elections! Fenna Bronwasser and I decided to set up a voting booth at UCR, not only for the purpose of this project, but also to remind people to go vote on March 15th, 2017. With the help of Tabula Rasa’s Gerjanne Hoek, we set up a
voting booth in Elliott on March 13th and 14th and we created an online voting opportunity as well to reach more students.
On Monday March 13th, we sent out the link for the UCR elections in the morning and a little before lunch break we had set up our voting booth in Elliott. We had no idea how many people would show up for this unofficial UCR election, but soon, votes started to come in. The first day went very smoothly and we got about 100 votes. Already after day one, the party preferences of UCR students were clear: GroenLinks (GreenLeft) and D66 were definitely the most popular. What we thought that was interesting, was that some of the biggest parties in the Netherlands, such as the VVD and CDA only got a handful of votes. Even more notably was that, after the first day of voting, no UCR student had voted for the PVV. Day two of the voting booth was equally successful; we reached a total amount of 197 votes! This is about a third of the UCR students, so we were very excited that we had reached so many students with our project.
Meanwhile in the rest of the country, the diplomatic clash between VVD prime minister Mark Rutte and Turkish leader Erdogan caused a major change in public opinion toward the elections. Polls showed a significant rise in VVD voters on the 14th of March, and tensions rose as it promised to be a very unpredictable and exciting voting day. In the wake of the victories in Britain for Brexit and in America for Donald Trump, the rise of right-wing populism in the rich western world was deemed unstoppable.
Geert Wilders’s PVV (Party for Freedom) has led polls for weeks, but with a surprising setback in the elections (for which more than 80% of all Dutch voters turned up, the highest percentage in decades) it could not win the most seats. This has caused European leaders to let out sighs of relief, as France and Germany have their elections coming up too, with strong nationalist parties running high in the polls as well. German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed it as “a good day for democracy,” and Mark Rutte himself said: “The Netherlands have said ‘Stop’ to the wrong kind of populism.”
The big defeat of the night comes for Rutte’s current coalition partner, the PvdA (Labor Party). It fell from 38 seats to an astonishing 9. You can see in the UCR Votes chart that it wasn’t very popular for us either. And where did all those seats go? To the left parties, with a major victory for GreenLeft led by Jesse Klaver, the 30 years young leader who has been compared to Canada’s Justin Trudeau. Might this flattering comparison also be a contributing factor in the way that GreenLeft won our UCR Elections with an amazing 40.61%? D66, also very popular for us students, showed a great result as well and is expected to rule in the next coalition. What is clear is that Dutch voters are leaning away from traditional, centre-left parties.
The next step will be to complete the puzzle that will result in a working coalition. This might become quite the challenge for the tiny Netherlands in between the European giants, roaring times are upon us and we should all follow closely what will change in the coming year.
Else van den Maagdenberg, Class of 2018, is a psychology major from Leiden, the Netherlands.
Gerjanne Hoek, Class of 2018, is a history, politics and linguistics major from Bunschoten-Spakenburg, the Netherlands.
Featured Image Source: Jasper Zwartjes via Vrij Nederland