The past months we’d been hopefully and anxiously looking forward to the outcome of the September 12 parliamentary elections. For months, the conservative leftwing Socialist Party (SP) was leading the polls, fighting for the position of the biggest party with the rightwing conservative liberals, or VVD.
But in the last couple of weeks, the SP’s popularity was totally overtaken by that of the center-left social-democrats (labour) of the PvdA. This was mainly due to the unexpected charismatic performance of its new young leader, former Greenpeace anti-nuclear power activist Samsom. He led the PvdA to a victory of 38 (out of 150 in total) seats. The VVD however won with 41 seats, and they will most likely continue to lead our government. The SP eventually won nor lost any seats, and will maintain 15 parliamentarians. Christian-democrats are on a historically low 13 seats (down from 21), the Greens are diminished (from 10 to 4 seats), and the progressive liberal democrats D66 won two seats, to get 12. The remaining seats are divided over small parties like the god-fearing women-excluding SGP, the elderly-only 50+ party or the Animal Party (PvdD). Oh, and the anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-Europe PVV went from 24 to 14 seats.
The VVD and PvdA now have no choice but to form a majority government together. They might want to involve a third party for reasons of stability. This could be D66, though they are closer to the VVD than to the PvdA, or the CDA whose reason for existence is to govern even though they have been losing voters for decades. What does this mean for our aim to get the tactical nukes removed?
The most fiercely anti-nuclear parties are SP and the Greens. They will not be in government, and their power of opposition has waned. D66 is anti-nuclear weapons and favors ending the Dutch nuclear task, but no-one in their ranks will stick out his or her neck for it. PvdA has been calling for the removal of the tacnukes more and more fiercely the past years (though not outside parliamentary debates) but in their election programme they promise to seek this with EU partners in NATO-context (indeed, embarrassing). CDA might surprise us now that the conservative but outspoken anti-tacnukes Raymond Knops, former military and former NATO-Parliamentary Assembly special reporter on nuclear disarmament, will probably become its spokesperson on foreign affairs. On one hand CDA sticks to reciprocity with Russia as condition for anything, on the other Knops has been signaling that he is very disappointed by the lack of progress on the tacnukes-issue and wishes to see something happening. His major value may lie in dragging the VVD into a more active position, since VVD and CDA are natural allies and the VVD partly thanks its electoral success to former CDA voters. Until now, VVD considers discussing anything nuclear a waste of time.
The game-changer might be the new Minister of Defense. PvdA-leader Samsom will stay in parliament, so the only thing we know is that it will not be him. If we have a VVD-minister, chances for a political shift are small. If we get a PvdA-minister, let’s hope that he or she sticks his or her neck out and announces a deadline for the removal of the tacnukes, closure of the only nuclear capable air base (Volkel) or not adding nuclear capability to the still-to-be-decided successor of the Dutch fighter jet. The only real opposition then will come from its coalition partner VVD or – let’s not rule that out- from within its own ranks. But the PvdA is also known for being fierce in opposition, and ‘realistic’ once in power.