There Were Elections In Holland Last Week-- And The County's Politics Was Turned On Its Head
Last night after dinner, Roland shaved my head. We met when he was around 18. He just turned 50 this month. He asked me how I feel about having turned 75 a week before. I feel pretty good, discounting the neuropathy that I got from chemo, so not age-related.
This morning I woke up at 4 and came downstairs and wrote a post about Trump’s possible indictment day mañana. And while I was doing that I was listening to a compelling new song by Jesse Rhodes, “Trees,” over and over, trying to conceptualize a Blue America ad for Pervez Agwan, our congressional candidate in Houston. And then I put together the dough for a sour dough bread. It’s rising now and then I’ll knead it some more and let it rise again and then bake it.
By 6:30 AM I had prayed in three traditions, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, as I do every morning. And then I dove into the pool and did laps. I felt strong and I did extra laps today. Before finishing up, I worked out— gently— with my water weights. Then I showered. When I got back to my computer, Toon, my best friend from Holland, had sent me an analysis of the Dutch provincial elections that no one in America was paying any attention to. We spoke on the phone Sunday and I talked him into doing it. He complained today that his English is rusty. In the ‘70s when I was living in Amsterdam, his English seemed perfectly normal. And since then, whenever we’ve seen each other— in Amsterdam, in New York, in Italy, San Francisco, in Mexico City, Morocco— his English seemed perfectly fine. Toon was in his twenties when we met; he’s a grandfather now. He asked me to polish the post up a bit. The rudimentary Dutch I ever spoke is a lot rustier than his English!
Toon voted for the Socialist Party candidates but he isn’t crying over the victory of the Farmer-Citizen Movement even though it leans more right than left. Like most Dutch voters he has nothing but disdain for the current prime minister, Mark Rutte, and his center-right coalition government. The Farmer party came in #1 in every province but Utrecht, where it was tied for #1 with the Greens. There were 49 parties registered for the election but just 47 participated, including Black Pete is Black, which got 745 votes, Jesus Lives (4,972 votes) and the Pirate Party (6,262 votes). Billboards like this on below, advertising the parties, were all over Amsterdam-- and there were even more parties listed on the other side!
Dutch politics on the shovel, BBB drops coalition into danger zone
-by Toon Janssen
Biggest winner of the Provinciale Staten elections on March 15th 2023 was the BoerenBurgerBeweging (BBB), the farmers party, headed by personable, chatty Caroline van der Plas. It took 19.23% of the vote and went from no seats to 17 seats in the Senate (1e Kamer). The ruling party (VVD) came in a distant second with just 11.13% of the vote. The distribution of seats in the Senate is based on the outcome of elections for the 12 different provincial parliaments. Like the U.K.’s House of Lords, our Senate— with 13 political parties— can block and control legislation initiated by the House (2e Kamer, 16 parties) but, can’t start it up or amend. Prime Minister (since 2010) “Teflon” Rutte’s coalition already had no majority in either the 2e or 1e Kamer but now it is further weakened. In the Senate Rutte’s center-right coalition didn‘t get any further than 22 seats out of the 38 needed for a majority, a loss of 10 seats compared to 4 years ago. So the right-of-center government needs more support from either left or right, an almost impossible mission, even for an acrobat. Howie asked me how van der Plas came out of the blue from zero? What was the program and, where did her voters come from?
Well first, all coalition parties in the House lost seats (VVD liberals -2, D66 light liberals -2, CDA christians -4 and CU orthodox Christians -2), and the BBB was the beneficiary. Van der Plas became popular with current farmer’s issues, and there are many. Of course there’s nitrogen reduction, almost halving of livestock and speedy top down Brussel’s Nature 2000 policy, along with forced sale of farmer’s land close to Nature 2000 areas, and more. On another level, BBB continuously schedules less urgency, recalculation of nitrogen values, less fragmentation of Dutch nature landscape, and an overall plea for more perspective for farmers. These issues made van der Plas big and popular with farmers as well as others in rural areas involved with agriculture and livestock… but there’s more.
The Netherlands is a real small country which is heavily populated and with few actual farmers. In some provinces 1 out of 3 voters opted for BBB. That leads to the conclusion that its immense success must be seen as massive protest against Rutte’s government, that has been involved in too many scandals and crises over the last 12 years that this Teflon PM is in power. Voters got frustrated and wondered about how to get out of the shit he created. They claim he wants power for power’s sake, with as main goal to stay in charge, no matter how, not by solving problems but by denying they exist, by pretending loss of memory, by obstructing documentation and continuously sliding forward matters. It’s his reputation that counts and not the issues, and that way the Lowlands went from crisis to crisis, with poultice and wet, without a vision a real statesman needs. There were and still are the famous subsidy surcharge affairs, the nitrogen- and dubious corona crisis management, decades of natural gas extraction and related claims handling, and all kinds of neoliberal moves in housing, education, health care, and so on. Although that way Teflon Rutte destroyed the welfare state he doesn’t even think about resigning, “I am the leader of the biggest party VVD, I have a voter’s mandate till 2025 and I’m running a country that’s modern and clean, the economy runs smooth, there’s almost no unemployment and, the rest of the world desperately envies us…”
Meanwhile Dutch citizens wonder about their future and have doubts about legislation and government. They turn the national red-white-blue flag upside down out of protest, bordering farmland and facades of city dwellings as a visible statement with it. They are done with Rutte, very much done.
There also a positive additional side to latest election results. That has to do with Geert Wilders’s PVV, the MAGA party for “freedom and democracy,” and Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, another extreme right party. The ultra right Wilders, a great debater but real motherfucker who needs security protection for over 10 years, was expected by some to benefit from these elections but stayed at just 5 seats, so that didn’t get worse. The greatest loss however was for Baudet, since although his party never was part of a coalition and also came out of the blue 4 years ago, it lost enormously to BBB— minus 10 seats! It appears that it doesn’t pay to be a populist and dangerous Dutch clone of Trump; less is more.
Hopefully the Dutch are better off with van der Plas. She’s heading a hell of a job with virtually no political experience and a party with no traditionally competent leaders. Running a country is very different from just protesting, so will she and will BBB ever be able to cooperate in a coalition? Or will they opt not to be part of one? Will they be able to take responsibility? When it comes down to decision making in politics they’ll have to show their face one day or another. In a country that small a size and that densely populated as the Netherlands there’s always big competition for future land use, for city growth, for infrastructure, industry and nature, to mention some. Yes indeed, Holland is extremely busy going on the shovel and of course BBB is in its right claiming that aviation, traffic, transportation all contribute to high nitrogen values and yes, since nitrogen doesn’t know about border so “why blame it on only us?” Future will show, van der Plas urgently needs to show face and both satisfy her voters as well as prove to be a reliable partner in politics. A hell of a job.