Open: Air mattress

POSTED: 04/23/12 1:49 PM

The Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, the PVV, is like an air mattress with a small leak. Last year, Wilders was riding high in the polls, with scores consistently higher than the 24 seats he holds in the Dutch parliament. But voters are turning away in droves from the PVV. The magic of Wilders Islam phobia seems to have worn off. That his most outspoken second in command Hero Brinkman left the party has not done Wilders a lot of good either.

If elections were held today, the PVV would win 18 seats – still substantial, but 2 seats less than two weeks ago. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD won a seat and now stands at 37, while the revived Labor Party and the socialist Party both won one seat, bringing their totals to respectively 27 and 26.

In theory, this opens the way for a left-liberal coalition of VVD, Labor party and SP. They would hold 90 seats, while the current coalition of VVD, CDA and PVV is stuck at 67, while holding 75 seats in the current parliament.

That the future for Wilders and his xenophobic party is not bright appears from a research into the lifecycle of anti-immigration parties. Political scientist André Krouwel said in an interview with the Volkskrant that anti-immigration parties like the PVV “last three or four elections, then they are gone.” Nrc.nxt checked this statement. Krouwel told the newspaper that he was misquoted: he said that new political parties that came up in Europe after 1945 have an average lifecycle of three to four elections. The Volkskrant-reporter maintains that her quote is correct.

Since 1945 Europe saw the rise and fall of 258 new political parties. Of this number, 56 took part in one election, 52 in two. After three elections more than half of the new parties had disappeared. The average lifecycle is influenced by parties that manage to stay the course; an example is the CDA, established in 1977 as a merger of KVP, CHU and AR. It went through eleven elections up to today.

Dutch anti-immigration parties did not fare that well. Four of them won one or more seats in parliament since 1945: the Center Party, the center democrats, the LPF (the party of murdered politician Pim Fortuyn) and the PVV. The Center Party lasted one election, the others two elections. The fate of the PVV at the next elections is of course unknown.

The four anti-immigration parties won seats in seven different elections. Their average lifecycle is therefore, based on Krouwel’s system, 1.75 elections. Seen in this perspective, the PVV has already overstayed its welcome.

Krouwel told the Volkskrant that Wilders’ party is “slowly on the way out.” In the polls, the PVV is indeed consistently sliding, but reality checks only matter during real elections. Maybe Wilders is not too concerned about the current voter sentiment, but he ought to be: history is not on his side.

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