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Friday, May 23, 2014

What does Wilders' defeat in Dutch euro elections mean?

For various reasons that we don’t quite understand, most of the UK press has deemed it illegal to report on the exit polls from yesterday’s European elections in the Netherlands - with the exception of the Telegraph and the Guardian. The Netherlands is the only country to conduct exit polls ahead of Sunday night (10pm GMT roughly) when the results from all 28 EU countries are announced.

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) took a clear a beating. If the exit polls stand, the party will have dropped from 17% in 2009 to 12.2% this time around, translating into a loss of 1 seat (the PVV had 5 seats in the last parliament but one MEP defected). This is no doubt an unexpectedly bad result for Wilders.

Source: Ipsos

Wilders’ defeat has given rise to a hilarious conspiracy theory in Brussels that the UK media isn't reporting on the Dutch elections since the result doesn't conform to its alleged anti-EU bias. Apart from the fact that the BBC and others genuinely worry about breaking the law (even though it’s a ridiculous law) this is also a wrong reading of the results.

Wilders screwed up. His controversial comments about Moroccan immigrants caused him real damage. Three of his four sitting MEPs even refused to campaign as a result. But to see this as a victory for the EU status quo in the Netherlands is pretty heroic.

- The strongly Eurosceptic Socialist party gained an extra 3% of the vote, translating into 1 extra seat, which sees it overtake the established centre-left PvdA. Together with the PVV, these strongly EU-critical parties are set to win 22.2% of the vote.

- While it's difficult to know what to read into this result, the parties that we've dubbed “critical reformers” have done relatively well. Prime Minister Mark Rutte's VVD party maintained a respectable share at 12.3%, despite leading an unpopular government, while the Christian Union/SGP increased its share by a percentage point. 

- The two biggest victors are the D66 liberals and the CDA, which are vying for first place on just over 15% of the vote. These parties are clearly pro-EU - and D66 is doing a lot of good work in the EP - however, please do resist the temptation to see this as an endorsement for more EU integration. Firstly, the D66, the great winner of this election, called on a freeze for transfer of powers just before the election, prompting Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans to post on his facebook page "D66 is suddenly also 'very euro critical'". Meanwhile, the CDA vote of 15% is down nearly 5% on its 2009 vote. It would be just as plausible to see the D66 and CDA vote as anti-incumbent vote against the PvdA-VVD coalition government.

- Lastly, turnout in the Netherlands remained stable, but at an incredibly low 37%. With Europe so much more in the headlines over the last few years and the Lisbon Treaty giving MEPs more powers, why in the world hasn't turnout gone up dramatically if it's true that more EP powers and greater awareness will lead to greater voter engagement?

These results certainly present a mixed picture. Wilders' failure to translate his polling into votes is notable but whether this pattern will be repeated elsewhere (in France, for example) remains to be seen - and probably has much to do how badly his campaign went.


Ray said...

Oh how these mainland countries must envy our UKIP, a genuine anti European party without the undercurrent of nastiness. I had a long conversation with a very good French friend of mine and he is in despair, he will not vote for Hollande, UMP are still not recovered and are as pro Europe as the PS. Which leaves him with Le Pen, and many in the same position will close their eyes and give it to Le Pen, which will be terrible for France.
Or will it? maybe a period "in the fire" will persuade them to get a new frying pan, who knows?

Peter van Leeuwen said...

Wilders' defeat doesn't mean much, as all kinds of national factors have worked against Wilders. His recent public incitement against Moroccans was in form (not in content) the same as: “Do you want more Jews, or do you want fewer Jews?” Many in his own party felt he'd gone too far this time. Over the top comments are a new way to attract attention, also for the parties he hopes to join with in the new European Parliament.
The EU and its MEPs are too far and too little interesting to get the Dutch to vote, and it is only about 26 out of 751 seats anyway. Most Dutch simply aren't informed about or interested in EU politics and have sort of delegated this to the elite.
While the general Dutch sentiment is EU-critical to eurosceptic, when polled about concrete issues yesterday they expected more from the EU (more a single voice in international conflicts and more working as one economic entity). Which . . . requires more integration!

Rik said...

Look at peil.nl last prognosis they stated he would have a turn out problem (25% lower than several other parties).
Likely the major part can be declared that way. Not something ordinary media will look at.
Small Christians do great as they have in general the highest turn out.
Very likely most would have voted for him in a general election and would have shown up as well there.

Unlikely that it will only be low turn out (but have to wait to be sure on a proper analysis). Simply very likely also a bad election. But not as bad as presented.

Likely caused by local factors as Peter vLeeuwen states.
Just look at the UK effectively even with all the turmoil max 20% of the people voted different than they would have done in a general election (and probably less). Only other thing different is turn out half the voters didnot show up like everywhere else. But not by far evenly distributed over all parties.

The Eurosceptic/anti-EU parties are now basically in Holland normal parties with no really extraordinary stuff playing. Like protestvotes in unimportant elections. Only for both SP and Wilders one would expect a low turn out. For the Christians a relatively very high one.

SP benefits from the 2 major competitors PvdA and Greens doing terrible.

As said both SP and Wilders are now basically seen as 'normal' parties (as far as the word normal and Wilders go together).
With Wilders being close to the top of his range (roughly 25 seats of 150, on a range of say 15-30).
See how the party will go as the organisation looks weak probably to everybody and they simply miss brains to be a party in technical discussion like the Euro exit.
Every 4-5 years he has to clean the thing up, simply doesnot look great. They had a good point with the report earlier but nobody could really hold the discussion. And they would score enormously with that as the pro-Euro camp also has a very weak case and not much technical skill available. But Wilders himself is simply not able to do that and there are no really other ones around.
Never write off Wilders he really has stamina and ideas he might come up with one. However now imho it should be more organisational iso just picking up political issues. If he is able to do that as well is a questionmark.

SP could well benefit from PvdA (Labour) imploding. Labour is really losing traditional voters in consideral numbers, could well be structural.
It has the same problems as Labour in the UK but with a lot of competition at all sides (unlike Labour).
My idea is that Labour simply will see a structural lower range than before. But with the present position say 10 seats (of 150) as the bottom. And most of the votes lost going to SP.
Allthough they suffered as well of a low turn out for their party thye want up. So you likely have 2 opposite effects.

Rik said...

All these parties are portraited in the media as being extremely nasty. UKIP is shown as a bunch of semi-racist weirdos on the continent as well.
But at the end of the day nearly everywhere all these parties are seen as basically normal parties by a majority (if not vast majority) of the local electorate.

The problem UK voters have with IP looks much more that it is a one man band and a start up than them being 'racist fruitcakes'.
They are seen by some as such but these are more or less natural never IP voters.

IP is relatively less nasty than the guys on the continent, but not that much (only in the media one gets a different impression).
In say the UK a lot of media hysteria ('racist' stuff) is simply not really taken serious by most of the of people. But re say Wilders you only see the funny mediagenic stuff and often blown up as well.
Only people in say the UK buy that from their local media (while they wouldnot buy something similar regarding Farage for instance).