Friday, August 20, 2010

Formation going into heavy seas

Economic issues coming to the fore front

The latest formation attempt of a new Dutch minority coalition of right-liberals (VVD), christian democrats (CDA) with the tacit support of the populist Freedom Party (PVV) is coming to closure. At this point difficult compromises and concession have to be made. An agreement to disagree over the position of Islam was made at the beginning of this formation period and I covered it in "A Minority Government" here. Due to the global economic troubles the VVD wants to cut 18 billion Euros of the state budget. This is proving to be difficult. 

PVV inserting itself BETWEEN CDA and VVD

The right wing notions of the PVV program on Islam, immigration and assimilationare well known. But what is less well appreciated is the leftist slant of a part of the PVV program.

On August the first a commenter R. Hartman remarked: 
There's nothing 'right wing' about the PVV. You might stipulate that the PVV is the least 'left wing', the least socialist party in NL, but it's still socialist. And that's NOT 'right wing', not even 'centric'.
With regards to economic issues Mr. Hartman is right. Although the PVV started out with a hardline free market position, the populists have since adopted an social and economic program to the LEFT of the right-liberal VVD. Notably on the issues of the care to pensioners, the ease with which an employer can fire an employee. As well as the right of the unemployed to receive generous state benefits in the first few months after getting fired, dependeing on how long the fired employee was employed for one employer previous to losing his job.The strategic move that the PVV is making here is recognizing that many voters who are worried about the rise of Islam, rising crime levels and the loss of Dutch and Western values are also concerned about globalisation and the loss of social and economic protection. These voters can be anywhere, both on left but also on the right. The PVV has connected the social and economic concerns of these voters with the expense of non-western immigration as this blog covered in e.g. "The Borjas Question". It has promised voters it would protect them better than the current cartel of parties on all the issues that these voters are concerned about: loss of national identity and rising crime, but also fear of economic replacement by immigrants. 

The right liberal VVD is insisting that many social arrangements have to be scrapped or made less generous in order to cut the budget. But the PVV and the CDA are opposing cuts (Dutch) in pensions, benefits and care for elders.

Culturally to the right

Many commentators are acting surprised that the PVV is creating waves over these issues. This shows that they do not understand what the PVV is about and how their strategists perceive the economic and political landscape. What the PVV is doing makes a lot of sense and is highly coherent. This is another reason why the PVV has a real chance to become to premier right wing party in The Netherlands. It is rightwing on cultural and religious issues. But it highly opportunistic in economic questions, where it may take positions which are associated with the left. Because politics has been about economic issues for 40 years people are looking at politics through a prism of economic theory. This explains that commentators observe the PVV to be coming from the "wrong" direction. 

Make no mistake. This is a big shift and it will not just hit and change The Netherlands, but many if not all Western societies, because all these societies struggle with the problems created by mass-immigration.

No easy compromise

Still, the conclusion must be that Geert Wilders is not easily going to compromise on these matters with the VVD. The formation of a minority cabinet could well fall apart on this issue, because the PVV cannot be seen to compromise to much on these core matters.

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