The final results of the Provincial Council elections 2023 were still trickling in on the morning after the election, but it soon became clear that a political landslide had taken place. Caroline van der Plas’ ‘BoerBurgerBeweging’ (also known as the BBB; the Farmer–Citizen Movement)won the most votes in many places in the Netherlands and the coalition parties lost handsomely. During the campaign leaders debate of Stichting Machiavelli in Nieuwspoort, the campaign leaders of five parties looked back on their campaigns and discussed the election results.
Thierry Aartsen (VVD – Conservative Liberals), Hanneke van der Werf (D66 – Liberal Democrats), Derk Boswijk (CDA – Christian Democrats), Esther-Mirjam Sent (PvdA – Labour Party) & Laura Vissenberg (GroenLinks – Green Party) sat down to analyze the election campaigns. Are they satisfied with the results? How do they look back on their own campaign? What do they think was the decisive factor? And what lessons do they learn from their campaigns?
‘From all parties, votes went to the BBB’
All campaign leaders present began by congratulating the BBB on their victory. The campaign leaders of coalition parties VVD and D66 indicated that they were not entirely dissatisfied with the result achieved. Thierry Aartsen (VVD) placed this against the background of the various discussions within their own ranks about nitrogen and migration, among other things. Hanneke van der Werf (D66) saw stability in the result for her party. She also pointed to other small progressive winners: the PvdD (Animal Party), Volt (pro-EU Party) and the PvdA. “From all parties, votes went to the BBB,” she said. Together, the PvdA and GroenLinks appear to be close to the BBB’s seat count in the Senate. Esther-Mirjam Sent (PvdA) praised the duo of Attje Kuiken (PvdA) and Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) for the result achieved. Laura Vissenberg (GroenLinks) agreed and added that they have shown that it pays to step over your own shadow in times of polarization.
Will we soon be going left or right?
What effect will this result have on the atmosphere within the coalition? The coalition parties VVD, D66 and CDA did not yet dare to say. Does this mean left or right in the Senate soon? Thierry Aartsen (VVD) did not want to draw conclusions from this result too quickly and indicated that he wants to use the coming period to listen. Derk Boswijk (CDA) did not want to draw any conclusions because he does not want to anticipate the formations in the provinces. And Hanneke van der Werf (D66) indicated she wants to remain focused on the substantive positions that are important to their voters.
In any case, the left-wing bond between the PvdA and GroenLinks seems closer than ever. Asked whether a merger was imminent, Laura Vissenberg (GroenLinks) said there were no plans for the time being, but that she looked back on the cooperation with satisfaction. It will certainly be continued, she said, but the form is up to the members. Esther-Mirjam Sent (PvdA) said that the next step after the elections would be a member referendum – as far as the cooperation between PvdA and GroenLinks is concerned, all options are still on the table.
New elections in the near future?
At the end of the debate, the five campaign leaders present said they were not enthusiastic about new elections in the short term. Especially the coalition parties seem to need time to recover after this result, while PvdA and GroenLinks need time to continue working on their cooperation – with which they want to pull the course of the current government through the Senate to the left. It is also clear that a large part of the electorate has cast a protest vote against the course of the current cabinet. With a new composition of the Senate and new provincial governments, will the cabinet be able to maintain stability within the coalition? Public Matters is keeping a close eye on developments.
You can watch the Provincial Elections campaign leaders’ debate at www.stichtingmachiavelli.nl