The election in the Netherlands on 12 September produced an increased vote, and victory, for the main right-wing party, VVD.
The Socialist Party, a left social-democratic group originating from Maoism, which had led the polls for large parts of 2012, slumped badly in the last weeks before the election and ended up with the same number of seats, and a smaller vote (9.2%) than in 2010.
Solidarity asked Peter Drucker, a socialist based in the Netherlands, to explain. On the election result itself, Peter referred us to an article by Alex de Jong.
The result, wrote de Jong, "shouldn't come as a surprise. Those polls predicted a political earthquake" which wasn't going to happen. "Few people have gone through a process of politicisation and struggle that matched the kind of leftward shift the polls seemed to predict, nor did the political debate in society show a sharp turn to the left".
"The SP is not very similar to Greece's Syriza..." It geared its campaign round the aim of getting in to a coalition government, and avoiding the disappointment it had in 2006, when it won 25 seats yet was excluded from the government coalition.
"To avoid a repetition of this, the SP leadership decided the party had to... lose its radical image and show it was prepared to govern. This approach seemed successful - for a while. But since people were not asked to vote for the SP's program and its solutions for the crisis, but for a future prime minister, the 'experienced' Labour Party became more and more a logical choice for many of them".
The SP advocated some welfare measures but made "no proposals to nationalise, for example, parts of the financial sector". It rejected EU demands to get the budget deficit below 3 per cent in 2013, but in favour of setting that target for 2015. An increase of the pension age from 65 to 67 after 2025 was accepted as inevitable.
"The SP's program is to the right of what the Dutch Labour Party was saying in the 1970s and is not that different from what one might hear in the circles of France's Parti Socialiste of Hollande".
"There exists a longer-term trend of Labour Party voters, sick of the betrayals of this 'third way', social-liberal party, moving further to the left... Among trade unionists, for example, the SP is now more popular than the Labour Party..."
But "the Labour Party, under pressure from the SP, adopted a much more left-wing discourse than it had used for years, trying and succeeding, to win back many voters". And "the moment the Labour Party won only a nose-length over the SP in opinion polls, voters started massively to leave [the SP] for... Labour [as having] more chance to prevent the return of [VVD leader] Rutte".
Now, and paradoxically, "the most likely scenario is a coalition of Labour and the VVD, plus at least one more party".
Peter Drucker added: "My sense is that the PvdA [Labour Party] always used the idea of a coalition with the SP to attract left-wing voters, but didn't and doesn't take the possibility seriously. Moreover, since both D66 [a small Lib-Dem-type party] and CDA [Christian Democratic Appeal] have virtually ruled out governing with the SP, that 'centre-left' coalition [advocated by the SP] is an illusion, and one that distracts people from the key task of mobilising the next round of attacks on the horizon.
"I suspect the SP leadership doesn't believe in the possibility itself, but simply wants to make it harder for the PvdA to ... form a coalition with the VVD...
"I'm not aware of any opposition at all in the PvdA now, though I suppose some could develop if the VVD's terms are too gruesome (which is likely).
"As for the unions, they are very divided, with a deep left-right split on narrow union issues cross-cutting party loyalties. That is, the right is mainly PvdA and to a lesser extent GroenLinks, while the left is mainly SP (with a range of positions) but also with some PvdA'ers. So it's hard for any union or any current in the unions to put forward a clear political position.
"Going into the elections their position was tacitly 'vote PvdA or SP' - with the left wing doing most of the mobilising around that - and that's about the limit of the political intervention unionists are capable of right now".