Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Campaign on Issues

Posted by butalidnl on 9 June 2010

It is election day today, for the national parliament of the Netherlands. And the campaign that was just finished was truly one in which centered on issues, and solutions to problems. It is amazing, that when compared with elections in the Philippines, or even those in America, the Dutch seem to be quite mature and sober in campaigning, and in choosing which parties will rule them for the next four years.

The Central Planbureau (CPB, or national planning bureau) determined that the next government should reduce the budget by Euro 20 billion in five years, so as to meet the Maastricht treaty’s requirement of maximum 3% budget deficit. So, all the parties drew up their party electoral programs with this in mind. And they really made decisions on where to cut programs, restructure, or where to spend more. And these programs were approved by party congresses and presented to the CPB for computation as to what the effects will be on things like employment, purchasing power, etc. And then, the programs were presented to the public.  The implications of the programs are diverse, and they affect different people in different ways. So, the people need to look into party programs to find out which party to vote for.

One instrument that people use are the computer programs on the web, which asks people for their positions, and compute which party best fits with them. Sites like that of the Stemwijzer (there are actually a lot of sites like this) are quite popular; and very many people choose their party (partly) on the basis of the advice of these sites. My daughter, who used to vote for the Green Left party; did the test in the Stemwijzer, and a number of other such sites, and found out that the Labor party would best fit her various positions. Her boyfriend, however, got a similar result, but didn’t go for Labor, but chose instead the second choice that was offered. It all depends. Of course, the Stemwijzer and other such programs sometimes comes out with strange results; like when people ended up with recommendations to vote for the Animal Party (2 seats in parliament) – this was because if you say yes to certain positions of the Animal Party (which is a one-issue party, and which has similar stands to Labor or Green Left in other issues) you end up with the recommendation to vote the Animal Party. Luckily, there are second and third choices, which you could decide to take.

The other way to get to know party programs (or at least their most relevant aspects) is to listen to debates among the party leaders. There are numerous debates, three of which were televised.  And they really got to debate on their programs, the implications for various segments of the population, and why the other parties got wrong policies. Yesterday,they also debated about possible coalition governments; and the leaders were asked why people should vote for them and not the other party. A whole lot of people made their decisions on the basis of these debates.

And the various media also did their own analysis of the various party programs. One program, Network, did an analysis of the VVD (Liberal) party’s program’s effect on a mother on welfare. So, there was this mother who cried on TV, saying the VVD program will take away from her 200 Euros a month, and that they were quite cruel for proposing to do that. This incited the VVD leader to storm out of the program and demand an apology. But, Network didn’t apologize, since it really believed that the VVD program will be disadvantageous for single mothers on welfare. Of course, the issue is not clear cut, since party programs very often take away things in one part, and give compensation in another part, so we can never say for certain if it is true or not.

The various newspapers and magazines also had their own analysis of the various party programs. So, even without reading a single program, you can really get a good idea of what the various parties are proposing to do.

As for advertising, only the VVD and the SP (Socialist Party) aired advertisements on TV throughout the campaign period. They seem to have the most campaign funds. However, on the day before the elections, it seems that a whole lot of parties had advertisements. Radio and newspaper ads were rather sparse. Posters were only put at the designated places, or on the windows of the various parties’ supporters.

Public campaigning is usually done at public sites, e.g. the open market or the town square. And many parties also engage in house-to-house campaigning.

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