Strategic voting offers no certainties in the Dutch voting system. You might end up with the opposite of what you wanted in the first place. An ideological vote, however, can lead to a strong opposition and even to participation in a coalition.
The Dutch elections are coming up. On the 15th of March, after four years of a coalition between right (VVD) and left wing (PvdA), Dutch citizens again decide the way our democratic system will be arranged for the next couple of years. Several polls state that the right-wing VVD is in a neck-and-neck race with Geert Wilders’ PVV (although one can doubt the actual accuracy of the polls as we have seen in the US elections).
According to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, which recently published the results of a voter research, several Dutch voters who would normally vote for middle- or left-wing parties (D66, GroenLinks, CDA) consider voting ‘strategically’. 20% of the Dutch voters seriously think about voting for the liberal VVD – the only party that can keep track of Wilders’ party in the polls – in order to prevent the much-criticised PVV from becoming the biggest political party. Voting strategically is something that has been happening since the beginningof this century and tends to guarantee that certain parties can form an opposition. But this strategic voting has some clear downsides.
In the Dutch voting system a strategic vote is not very effective.
Especially in the Dutch voting system a strategic vote is not very effective. Some electoral systems, like the one in the UK where there are three parties and a regionalized method of balloting with a winner-takes-all principle, to vote strategically can be a smart move because there a vote easily gets lost. Because only one party can win in a certain district, you are more inclined to vote for a party that can actually win ánd that comes closest to your political preferences - although this might not be the party you intentionally wanted to vote for. But in the Dutch system, a party can gain a seat in the House of Representatives rather easily. The most rational strategic voting one can do in the Netherlands is to vote for a party that has the chance to become the biggest party and therefore will initiate government formation. But even this does not guarantee success.
Back in 1971 and 1977, the PvdA became the biggest party, but in both cases was not in the coalition and therefore unable to exert any real influence. In 1982, the Dutch left wing voted PvdA abundantly, eventually ending up with an alliance between middle party CDA and VVD. And most recently, back in 2012, both left and right wing voted strategically in order to keep PvdA or VVD out of the coalition. Resulting in a partnership of … PvdA and VVD! Again an example that strategic voting does not necessarily work out as planned. People hoped for a left- or right-wing coalition, and ended up with both. Now, especially the left-wing PvdA voters feel rather neglected – as also becomes evident in the polls for the upcoming elections.
Thwarting a party, based on negativity, does not work out! Follow your heart and vote ideologically.
What makes the current case so interesting is the fact that people with a clear left preference, who have been opposed to the VVD’s influence the last couple of years, are considering giving up on their ideological principles, only in order to surpass PVV. People do not stick to their intrinsic convictions and ideals but choose a party purely based on disagreement. Noting that in our political system it is not certain that Wilders’ party, having gained the most votes, will deliver the prime minister or even be in the coalition. This is furthermore underlined by the fact that all political parties (except for 50Plus and WNL) have already mentioned to exclude the PVV in advance due to its radical stances, mainly on immigration.
Paradoxically, voting for VVD might even bring a partnership with PVV closer while there are some cracks in VVD’s promise not to work together with Wilders’ party. After all, before the elections four years ago, VVD leader Mark Rutte also decribed PvdA as an unreliable party and a ‘’threat for the Netherlands’’. We all know how that eventually worked out. Next, a strong opposition is essential for a properly functioning democratic system. These parties come to the fore to protect your (and our) norms and values and critically evaluate the coalition's policy. And last but certainly not least: the last couple of years have pointed out that small(er) parties have actual influence in the political debate and are ever more asked to participate in the coalition (SGP is a telling example).
Strategic voting offers no certainties whatsoever. You might end up with the opposite of what you wanted in the first place. Thwarting a party based on negativity, or voting 'strategically' because you think it will lead to a potential (left- or right-wing) coalition, does not necessarily work out. Follow your conviction and vote ideologically. In the end this might turn out to be a lot more valuable to you, and to the future of our country.
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