- Category: Election 2012
- Created on Monday, 04 June 2012 10:04
- Written by Amsterdam Herald
With three months to go until Parliamentary elections, opinion polls show Roemer’s party are the front runners, as they have been since January. The question is whether they are indeed ready or able to form a government.
The latest Maurice de Hond poll gives the SP 29 out of the 150 seats in the Lower House (Tweede Kamer), four ahead of the Liberals (VVD), who are currently the largest party, and five clear of a resurgent Freedom Party (PVV) led by Geert Wilders.
Yet in the increasingly fragmentary Dutch political landscape, that still gives Roemer less than a fifth of the seats in the Lower House, leaving him with the task of finding at least two, and probably three, coalition partners.
At the party congress in the southern city of Breda, Roemer set out the terms under which he would be prepared to sign a coalition deal.
‘I will not sign if it means the gap between incomes grows,’ he said. ‘I will not sign if we do nothing significant against market influences in the public sector. And I will absolutely not sign unless we can do something to fight child poverty in the Netherlands.’
Roemer’s most likely ally is the Labour Party (PvdA). Like the Socialists, the PvdA opposed the Spring Accord (Lenteakkord) to bring the budget deficit back within 3 per cent of GDP next year, as required under European fiscal discipline rules.
However, PvdA leader Diederik Samsom has insisted that he will only go into government with the Socialists if he becomes Prime Minister.
Samsom will also be cautious not to align his party too closely to the SP, since similar overtures proved the last straw for his predecessor Job Cohen. Cohen resigned in February shortly after an e-mail from a senior party colleague, criticising a newspaper interview in which Cohen said the two parties had much in common, was leaked to the media.
As a fierce opponent of the Spring Accord, Roemer may struggle to build bridges with the five parties who signed the deal – the VVD, the Christian Democrats (CDA), the left-liberal D66 group, the Green-Left (GroenLinks) party and the Christian Union (CU).
An alliance with Geert Wilders’s party is also unthinkable, given that Wilders and Roemer’s groups are bitter rivals for the populist vote and Wilders has built his success on disillusionment with left-wing politics.
Roemer’s party speech included a direct attack on the free-market liberalism of Mark Rutte’s VVD-led cabinet. The Socialists want to limit the influence of the market in the public sector, reel back budget cuts and delay the 3 per cent deficit target until 2015.
Unlike Wilders’s party, which is explicitly anti-European and wants to restore the guilder, the SP are in favour of staying in Europe but curtailing the EU’s powers over national governments.
Like Wilders, Roemer voted against endorsing the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which provides a collective bailout fund for struggling European economies. That puts him squarely against the pro-European D66 group, which may well have the role of kingmaker if it can win around 15 seats, as opinion polls indicate.
Opponents, such as D66 leader Alexander Pechtold, accuse Roemer of stirring up resentment against budget cuts without offering any plausible alternatives.
If the 49-year-old from Boxmeer does become the leader of the largest party on September 12 it will signal a political shift not just in the Netherlands but across Europe as voters turn their back on austerity.