Werner Vogels on the Dutch election

Dave, you’ll probably get a kick out of this: today there were parliamentary elections in the Netherlands. It is a multiparty system with about 15 parties competing for people votes. The government is always a collation and it has been christen-democrats + liberals for the past 6 years or even longer. Keep in mind that liberals are considered right-wing in the Netherlands. There are 150 seats in the house of representatives and it is common for the largest party to not have more than 35-40 seats.

Anyway, one of the more popular politicians is Jan Marijnissen, the leader of the SP – Socialistische Partij (Socialist Party). The SP are the hard core socialists, with strong ties to the labor organizations and very principled when it comes to taking care of the disadvantaged in the society. Traditionally the PvdA (Labor Party) was considered to be the representative of the blue collar work force, but they have been too centric and too compromising in the past decade to play this role.

Jan Marijnissen is a blogger (http://www.janmarijnissen.nl/). He embraced blogging 2-3 years ago and will write the entries himself and respond to comments himself also. He motivated the whole party to embrace the internet as one of their main communication channels and they produced a continuous stream of podcasts and videos and used collaboration tools to coordinate the grassroots organization on which the party is built.

Marijnissen’s appeal is mainly that he is a very principled, honest politician. People feel that they can trust him, and his accessibility through his weblog has been a main tool in directly connecting and responding to voters.

Marijnissen’s party went from 9 seats to 26 seats in today’s election, becoming the 3rd largest party. This kind of increase in number of seats is unheard of in the Netherlands and has earthquake like implications for the political landscape. The first reports all analyze this victory 1) people in the Netherlands still care very much for “equality” 2) the SP was really able connect to voters and the internet was an important channel for that. Many talk about that it actually gave them a strategic advantage and that even the were considered a small party, they got equal attention of the old-media because the use of internet channels.

regards, just thought you would enjoy this,

Werner

6 responses to this post.

  1. Actually, though I’d love to say “Look! Blogging works! They went from 9 seats to 26!” I would like to add that there were many, many other factors involved here (people in the Netherlands fed up with the previous government, SP’s recent choices to let go of impossible standpoints like leaving NATO, etc). In fact, all of the people I know who voted SP have no idea what a blog is nor have they ever seen the SP site. Undoubtedly the use of internet in communicating with the people has helped, but I find it hard to believe that it would be the main factor in the success of the SP.

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  2. Actually dutch politics is very volatile. The LPF went from zero to 26 seats a few years ago. This time they got none. Quite a few politicians have blogs here. It makes the communication lines shorter if you feel like interacting. But some of the more radical ones like Geert Wilders don’t have comments on (hardly suprising). Politics here is nuts anyway. A large amount of the seats are held by parties (at least 5) with less that 10 seats each. Jan Marijnissen is though a very commited blogger.

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  3. You might want to check out the story of Garth Turner – the Canadian Member of Parliment whose blog is widely read – and is the reason he got tossed from his party by the Prime Minister. http://www.garth.ca/weblog

    He is, hopefully, changing Canadian politics.

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  4. I agree that my note to Dave was very high-level and left out many of the complexities of Dutch politics. I do believe the SP story is different from the up-and-coming groups that lately appear in Dutch politics as they have been around for a much longer time and had to reinvent themselves from a leftists-maoist image to a social-democrat party. I based the note on an analysis by Maurice de Hond that the way the SP campaigned had given them the edge. I can’t find an online reference where he repeats that statement though.

    Politics is always complex and many people will have different a analysis. Point made was that the Internet was a very important channel in the Dutch elections, and it appeared that the party that fully embraced modern communication with their front man a very active personal blogger had unexpected large gains in this election. There are obvious many factors that contribute to its success to claim that there is a causal relationship between those two facts. But the SP was credited with connecting and communicating at a very personal level, for which blogging was one of the many tools.

    I believe I got a fact wrong: the current government was there for 4 years, not 6? I have been away for too long.

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  5. Werner, If you’ve read the blog you would have seen that 1 day before the elections they where having more than 24.000 hits. Attributing their win to his blog is somewhat off. Instead I think it’s primarily because other factors that they won big time.

    What indeed is remarkable however is the amount of blogs, and use of new media during the campaign. Actually the government wasn’t even 4 years as the elections where earlier than they should have been.

    As far as the analysis of Maurice de Hond, I remember an earlier analysis about the SP in the NRC (unfortunately haven’t got a link for you) where the party was analyzed. And they have a lot of people that assist during campaign. For instance the bill board near my house up until one day before the elections had 1 SP poster on it, On the night before the elections though this had changed to SP covering most of the other posters.

    Then again, his blog indeed seems one of the better ones. Though if I remember correctly Zalm was one of the front runners using blogging to communicate.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Don on November 26, 2006 at 4:20 am

    Gerrit Zalm (Minister of Finance) does have a blog, but I’ve heard he writes his posts on a piece of paper and his secretary types it in for him (Grief!). Anyway he has just quit dutch politics (maybe because he never got the hang of blogging ;-)).

    Reply

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