Joost van Stennis, "Dutch Electoral Surprise"

Electoral Landslide in Holland

Joost van Steenis

Fast change occurs.

We had in The Netherlands a stable political system in which the big traditional parties formed coalitions to rule the country. It seemed this this could go on for ages. But the last Town Council elections proved that people can suddenly change their minds. It is not yet a catastrophe but
nevertheless is again proved that stability is not eternal, that unexpected
things can happen.
On March 6 only 57.7% of the voters went to the ballot boxes. Though voters
got two hours more time to vote participation was .6% smaller than in 1998.
In the capital Amsterdam (47.8% voters) and the government seat The Hague
(44.2%) the number of non-voters even exceeded the number of voters. Is it
legitimate that representatives who are chosen by a minority may rule? The
majority of non-voters (including me) do not have representatives (on who's
behaviour they anyhow never have any influence) and thus they are free to
act against the ruling class. For more objections against the system of
elections see chapter 6 of my book "The Scarists" on

Three months ago nobody predicted what was going to happen. The election
polls showed that two new parties should get some votes but never so much
that the political situation should change. But the elections were marked by
an electoral landslide in Rotterdam, world's biggest port. The Labour Party
ruled Rotterdam for more than 50 years. In the 1998-elections they polled
only 30.1%. This year the Labour Party went down to 22.8%. The only winner
was the populist, charismatic, pig-headed professor Pim Fortuyn who got
34.7% of the vote. That Fortuyn is a bald-headed homosexual did not
influence the voters. Homosexuality is accepted in my country - and that
should be the case in all countries. Though it is going quite well in
Holland in the economic field discontentment is widespread and the political
establishment is not regarded as people-friendly. Contact with the
population is rare and big problems are left unsolved e.g. in health,
security, education and public services including public transport. The
aversion against the political elite has never been so outspoken. In the
rest of the country there was a comparable electoral shift away from the old
political parties as in Rotterdam. Some feelings and thoughts of the masses
lay apparently dormant waiting for the right moment to spring forward. That
is one of the factors that can cause a catastrophe.

In the past political parties had a distinct program, we had on the left a
communist and a socialist party, on the right a liberal party and somewhere
in between a Catholic and two Protestant parties (besides many smaller
parties). People knew for which party they had to vote. Then the political
programs of the parties started to change and in the end all parties arrived
at the middle of the political spectrum where they played into each other's
hands. The last eight years we had a pink government formed by the Labour
Party, the Liberal Party and the Pragmatic Party (D'66) but the political
ideas of all parties including the opposition were similar. No ideology, no
ideas of a new future, only pragmatic short-term solutions. And the old
method of governing was restored: We (the elite) decide and You (the masses)
have to listen. The oligarchy retook the ground it lost in the sixties among
other causes because of the mass activities during the PROVO Movement.

General elections will be held on May 15 and the list Fortuyn together with
the comparable party Livable Netherlands will take part. The last poll
showed these two populist parties would take 22 percent of the votes. The
political establishment is in panic.
Many people are dissatisfied though most still think that transferring their
political power to elected representatives is the only way to get influence.
They do not understand that when populist leaders assume political
responsibility they will act on the same way as the present political elite.

That was already proven by Mussolini and Peron in the past and by the
Italian Berlusconi and the Austrian Haider in the present. Populists only
use the masses to climb up to the political elite. They do not want to share
any power with the man in the street.

Low participation in elections all over the world proves that people are not
content with the elitist democracy. They do not know what to do against it
and sometimes grasp the straw offered by populist leaders who indeed are
talking fresh and different even if their ideas are accompanied by a narrow
nationalism and some racism.

The present society is far from ideal and politicians should think how the
masses could unfold their individuality and their creativity without an
electoral system in which people's power is transferred to third persons. I
have published some thoughts about such a possibility in my article "Beyond
Democracy" on Beyond Democracy. The
present elitist politicians refuse to think about another future in which
they cannot anymore manipulate the masses to preserve their own power. I
propose to strive for the power of alternating minorities of active and
involved citizens, the present political powers all agree that only a
leading political elitist minority has the right to decide and rule.

Discontent will never vanish when the political elite wants in the first
place to safeguard its own privileged position. Elections will never bring
about the needed catastrophe that will change our world. Again and again
populist leaders will come forward. But because they resemble more the
sitting powers than the people they say they represent populism will never
be the method by which the masses can achieve autonomy and freedom.

Joost van Stennis

New ways to break the power of the elite