The Netherlands seemed to have a stable political system in which big
traditional parties formed coalitions that ruled the country. But the last Town Council elections proved that
people can suddenly change their minds. It is not yet a catastrophe but
nevertheless is again proved that stability is not eternal, that
unexpected things can happen.
On March 6 only 57.7% of the
voters went to the ballot boxes. Though voters got two hours more time to
vote participation was .6% lowert than in 1998. In the capital Amsterdam
(47.8% voters) and in the government seat The Hague (44.2%) the number of
non-voters even exceeded the number of voters. Is it legitimate that
representatives are chosen by minorities? The majority of
non-voters (including me) do not have representatives (on whose
behaviour they anyhow never have any influence) and thus they are free to
act against the ruling class. For more objections against the system of
elections see chapter 6 of my book "The
Three months before the elections nobody foresaw what was going to happen. Election
polls showed that two new parties should get some votes but never so much
that the political situation should change. But the elections were marked
by an electoral landslide in Rotterdam, world’s biggest port. The Labour
Party had ruled Rotterdam for more than 50 years. In the 1998-elections they
had got only 30.1%. This year the Labour Party went down to 22.8%. The only
winner was the populist, charismatic, pig-headed professor
Pim Fortuyn who
got 34.7% of the vote. That Fortuyn was a bald-headed homosexual did not
influence the voters. Homosexuality is accepted in my country – and that
should be the case in all countries. Though it is going quite well in
Holland in the economic field discontentment is widespread and the
political establishment is not regarded as people-friendly. Contact with
the population is rare and big problems are left unsolved e.g. in health,
security, education and public services including public transport. The
aversion against the political elite has never been so outspoken. In the
rest of the country there was a comparable electoral shift away from the
old political parties as in Rotterdam. The feelings of masspeople were
dormant, only waiting for the right moment to spring
forward. Discontent with the present situation is one of the factors that can cause a catastrophe.
In the past political parties had a distinct program, on the left the
communists and the socialists, on the right the liberals and somewhere in between a Catholic and two Protestant parties (besides many
smaller parties). People knew for which party they had to vote. Then political programs started to change and in the end all
parties arrived at the middle of the political spectrum. The last eight years we had a pink government
formed by the Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the Pragmatic Party
(D’66) but the political ideas of all parties including the opposition
were comparable. No ideology, no ideas of a new future, only pragmatic
short-term solutions. And the old method of governing was restored: We
(the elite) decide and You (the masses) have to listen. The oligarchy
retook the ground it lost in the sixties among other causes because of the
mass activities during the PROVO Movement.
General elections will be held on May 15 and the list Fortuyn together
with the comparable party Liveable Netherlands will take part. The last
poll showed these two populist parties would take 22 percent of the votes.
The political establishment is in panic. (See Letter
25 and Letter 30 about the rise
and Fall of the party of the murdered Pim Fortuyn).
Many people are dissatisfied though most still think that transferring
their political power to elected representatives is the only way to get
influence. They do not understand that when populist leaders assume
political responsibility they will act in the same way as the present
political elite. That was already proven by Mussolini and Peron in the
past and by the Italian Berlusconi and the Austrian Haider in the present.
Populists only use the masses to climb up to the political elite. They do
not want to share any power with the man in the street.
Low participation in elections proves all over the world that people are
not content with the elitist democracy. They do not know what to do
against it and sometimes grasp the straw offered by populist leaders who
indeed are talking fresh and different even if their ideas are accompanied
by a narrow nationalism and some racism.
The present society is far from ideal and politicians should think how the
masses could unfold their individuality and their creativity without an
electoral system in which people’s power is transferred to third
persons. I have published some thoughts about such a possibility in my
article "Beyond Democracy". The
present elitist politicians refuse to think about another future in which
they cannot anymore manipulate the masses to preserve their own power. I
propose to strive for the power of alternating minorities of active and
involved citizens, the present political powers all agree that only a
leading political elitist minority has the right to decide and rule.
Discontent will never vanish when the political elite wants in the first
place to safeguard its own privileged position. Elections will never bring
about the needed catastrophe that will change our world. Again and again
populist leaders will come forward. But because they resemble more the
sitting powers than the people they say they represent populism will never
be the method by which the masses can achieve autonomy and freedom.
Joost van Steenis (March 20 2002)