UPDATE DUTCH POLITICS: What a year it was in the Lowlands!


Brief recap of 2019 and what to expect in 2020.

With 2 elections, multiple political scandals and a booming economy – 2019 was a year to remember. But with upcoming elections (in 2021) and tensions in the coalition government – 2020 promises to be another exciting year as well.

Elections 2019: big wins eurosceptic Forum for Democracy and eurocrat Timmermans

  • The most remarkable result in the March provincial & Senate elections was the huge win of Forum for Democracy, a right-wing and Eurosceptic party led by Thierry Baudet. The party gained 12 seats. Later this year, front man Baudet clashed with his leading man for Senate and co-founder Henk Otten due to alleged misuse of party finances. Otten left FvD, taking two senators and a bunch of local politicians with him, to form his own party Groep Otten. Baudet’s party is now left with 9 seats in Senate. The same elections led the coalition government to lose its majority in Senate – but they’ve found their support in GreenLeft and Labor in 2019.
  • On 23 May Frans Timmermans pulled his Labor’s EP-faction to the number one position in the Netherlands by running as Spitzenkandidat for S&D – delivering a solid 6 seats. Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) lost big this year, after many voters switched to Forum for Democracy. The Socialist Party – led by Lilian Marijnissen – has been in trouble for longer, having lost seats in four consecutive elections (national, municipal, provincial and European). Both parties did not return to the European Parliament after May.

Dutch pockets are deeper than ever

  • The Dutch economy is doing well: economic growth 2019 is 1,8% of GDP and in 2020 it is projected at 1,5%. Overall the economy is strong – with a national debt to decrease to less than 50% of GDP. Unemployment rate will increase slightly from 3,5%. Factors that impact international trade continue to affect the Dutch economy, as the Netherlands’ internationally oriented economy is vulnerable to global market disturbances. All budgets proposed on budget day (17 September) passed through Senate on 17 December – in time for FY2020.

Farmers rebel and tensions in the coalition

  • One of the biggest political events of this year were the farmer’s protests. On multiple occasions, farmers disagreeing with measures announced to reduce emissions took to The Hague and several provincial governments, using tractors and trucks to disrupt traffic and occupy squares. This led to the coalition government reconsidering their options in emission reduction. Eventually, PM Mark Rutte’s VVD was forced to give in on one of the parties oldest principles – to lower speed limits from 130 km/h to 100 on most highways. Whether the voter is prepared to punish the VVD for this move will be seen in the 2021 elections.
  • This year saw two ‘political casualties’ in Mark Rutte’s cabinet. State secretary for Justice and Security, Mark Harbers, had to put down his function due to miscommunications in the reporting of crimes committed by asylum seekers. In addition, the Dutch saw the State secretary for Finance, Menno Snel, depart following a series of scandals related unjust recall of childcare allowances. Harbers has been replaced by the VVD’s Broekers-Knol – but finding a D66-replacement willing to clean up the issues at Finance will prove a lot harder.
  • Currently, the Dutch participation in the international coalition against IS’ bombing of Hawija (Iraq) in 2015 is the most volatile and dangerous issue on the political agenda for our coalition government. The bombing of the Iraqi installation resulted in over 70 civilian casualties. In October, the impact of the bombing was extensively researched by Dutch news organizations NOS and NRC. Their revelations led to the conclusion that the Ministry of Defense was aware of the casualties in the year of the bombardment – but refrained from informing parliament. Currently, Minister of Defense, Ank Bijleveld, is having trouble defending her predecessor’s decisions.

2020 & 2021: to effectively lobby election manifestos you should start now

  • The year 2020 promises to be a very eventful political year as well. With the upcoming 2021 elections for the Lower House, political tensions within the coalition government are becoming more apparent. Political parties are busy preparing for the new elections. Committees have been installed to write election programmes and new candidate lists. The first foundations for the party programmes have been laid in discussion documents. During the party congresses, these plans are being actively discussed with members. The more important themes for the elections are beginning to take shape.
  • There is still room for input to the election manifestos, especially now. An effective lobby starts early, and has a grasp on who does what in these early stages. For example, does your organization have an interest in making changes to, or maintaining, the current healthcare system? Make sure you know which civil servants in the ministries are involved in the preparatory studies, which working groups within political parties are involved in healthcare policy and which stakeholders from the ‘field’ (possibly) have similar interests.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Public Matters to explore what we can do for you in the run-up to the 2021 elections.

- Farmers rebel and tensions in the coalition -

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