ABOUT THE MYTH OF THE VOTER'S INFLUENCE
This is Part II of a series of 6 articles on why our democracy is failing.
Part 1 addressed the cause of why we have to contend with so many substandard administrators and representatives. In summary, there are no more than 32.000 candidates available for more than 12.000 positions. That is only 2,6 candidates per political position.
From the perspective of supply and demand and the right person in the right place, that is poverty.
In this section we look at the actual influence of the voter. The voter, the electorate with a nice word from The Hague, is plagued with election promises before the elections. They fly around him; the CDA will do this, the PvdA will that, the VVD will make sure that you, the SP is committed to, the PVV promises. You know.
The parties therefore have only one goal; draw the vote of the voter so that they land on the plush in order to realize their utopian world in the interest of the people.
In the end, part of the electorate dutifully makes the four-yearly walk to the polling station and turns a box red. And that is where the influence of the voter ends.
The Great Promise
Every election campaign starts in back rooms, pardon, meeting rooms where people philosophize about 'how things should be done differently'. A small committee of local chapters and later the party's regional branch is thinking about this.
Of course, the party leaders also philosophize about this, but probably not in a room of the local village café but in a beautiful resort or in a Bilderberg hotel. Reports are written with wishes, ideas, recommendations and advice from local and regional chapters and hit the table at the party's top. They put them next to their own plans and that all resulted in a large party congress somewhere in the country.
There, Members are allowed to pronounce on the definitive Great Promises with which the party will profile itself towards the voter during the election campaign.
That sounds extremely democratic and bottom-up. Ultimately, however, the party leadership, and that is only a handful of people, decides on the content of the campaign. They organize the party congress, set the agenda, compile the list of election promises, the direction of the party.
We can safely forget that fundamental changes in direction are still on the agenda during a party congress. When looking for 'dissatisfaction party congress' and a political party, there are plenty of examples including this one https://www.ad.nl/politiek/elke-keer-als-thieme-binnenkwam-was-ik-op-mijnhoede~ae834aac/
Remember, only 2,4% of the Dutch population is a member of a political party (less than 320.000 people) and less than 10% (32.000 people) will actively engage in this process.
In short, the influence of 'the voter' on this process is completely imaginary.
The Dialing List
Then there is the question of the electoral list. The electoral list has eligible candidates, the 'reserve bank' and the so-called pushers for the list. Eligible, those who aspire to and receive political office when the party joins the coalition. The spare benches are the 'pushers'. That goes like this. Jantje becomes alderman on behalf of the party and Pietje moves up to Jantje's place in the city council.
Later alderman Jantje becomes ill and Pietje now becomes alderman. Marietje moves to Pietje's place. List pushers, such as celebrities and athletes, have to draw votes but are in an ineligible place; so bait. A form of voter deception according to many.
Then the question is who will be elected and, if so, where? The parties want to present the voter with a closed front during the campaign. Disagreements between them must then be under the
radar, otherwise it will of course not work.
And that affects the electoral list. Better someone who accepts what the party leaders demand than a freethinker who opens his mouth. Moreover, a failing leader is rarely sent away and nevertheless ends up again in an eligible position. And here, too, only a handful of the total of 320.000 party members are involved. And the influence of the voter on this? Zero.
Written the election manifestos, set the list, campaigned, and then, elections!
The turnout percentage of these is steadily decreasing. It is not too bad for the House of Representatives, but the trend for provincial, municipal and certainly the European elections is dramatic. (Source:https://kennisopenbaarbestuur.nl/thema/trends-en-ontwikkelingen/)
When percentages fall to 55% (municipal council 2018) or below (47,5%, provincial 2015) and collapse (37,4%, EU 2014), the result loses its meaning in terms of support from the voter. If the turnout is lower than 50%, it is no longer even the case that the most votes count! In beautiful Hague, then the primacy of politics ceases.
Yet even with 1% turnout, an election is still valid! A situation unworthy of a democracy.
As early as 2017, the Council for Public Administration, among others, reported that the Netherlands is suffering from an 'alarming democratic (confidence) crisis'. The blame for this is, how is it possible, placed on, yes, the voter. The voter would be apathetic, no longer trust politics (!), and behave erratically at election time. (Source:
Politicians shed big crocodile tears about the lack of confidence among voters. Is that actually correct?
Well, ask a Dutch person which politician he would, without reservation, entrust half of his annual salary to do something useful with it. The answer I've been getting for years ranges from deep lines of thought, not just one, stammering and very, very occasionally, the name of a politician with the necessary ifs and buts.
Never before have I received a fresh and cheerful answer without reservation. Yet every voter with his red box gives carte blanche to any politician to spend half of the annual salary! And before you start spluttering about half of the annual salary, even the lowest bracket of your income tax is 40% after just a hair. And don't splutter about 'random politician', read on and it will become clear to you why.
The Election Results
The votes are counted, the number of seats is known and now the leaders will 'interpret' the result. The winners rub their hands at the prospect of the plush. And to fulfill their Great Promises of course.
The losers try to play down the voter's beating: the party blames the cabinet - of which they are a part - (CDA 1994), another party presented itself better as an opposition party (SP 2019), the leader takes the blame ( vd Speck PvdA), the leader is blamed (Melkert PvdA 2002), the voter has been frightened by other parties (Samsom 2014 PvdA), arguing incompetent youngsters in the fraction (GroenLinks 2012), the rise of another party (VVD- there Dijkstal, 2002 which the PVV underestimated).
And Rutte (March 2019) takes an advance on the possible loss of the VVD in the upcoming elections; it is due to the rise of FvD and not its own failing policy. Indeed, the policies pursued are never cited as a reason for their loss. Draw your own conclusions.
The way the result is to be interpreted is determined by the party leadership, advised by their spin doctors. The voter has no influence whatsoever on that explanation and the consequences for the coalition.
The Coalition Formation
In theory, elections should have a cleansing effect on politics; the winners form the new coalition and the losers fail. But nothing is less true. Nationally, SP and PVV were artfully sidetracked by the coalition formation, despite huge election profits. In fact, the PVV was (and is!) Already loudly labeled an unacceptable coalition partner before the elections by various 'democratic' parties.
That fate also affects the FvD. Politicians swear by high and low that 'everyone belongs'. And in the same breath, PVV and FvD voters are put in the rubbish without any conscientious objection.
And at the same time crocodile tears about lack of confidence in the voter!?!? Understand who can understand.
In order to sprinkle some extra salt in the wound of the voter, losing parties will simply return to the coalition to form a majority. The overall message to the voter: 'Whatever you vote, it doesn't matter. We determine '.
This working method is most striking in national politics, but it also plays a role regionally and locally. In addition, a few years ago, a formateur led the coalition talks. Today, the party leader of the largest, not necessarily the winning party (!), Takes the lead. The influence of the voter on that change? Zero.
And, when that coalition has been formed, will the voter be consulted as to whether the coalition also deserves its support? No of course not. The pre-eminent reason for this rejection by the voter could easily be the concluded coalition agreement. Clearly, here too the voter influence is non-existent.
The Coalition Agreement
During the coalition negotiations, the parties check whether they 'can find each other'.
Central question: "What will you do to join us in the coalition?" The change consists of three things:
(1) election promises made
(2) how many posts each lot gets
(3) who will receive which mail.
That is, to put it bluntly, a clap, haggling. The outcome of that haggling culminates in a thick coalition agreement that will knock out any chance of political or public debate in advance. Such a process does not make a nice one
The best-known example, the Purple cabinets (VVD, PvdA and D66). Many policy-related creations saw the light of day under the direction of these strange bed partners.
Wroughts that Mr. Pim Fortuyn filed razor sharp in his book De Puinhopen van eight years of Purple. Exactly the same to which Tjeenk Willink also refers in his speech in 2013 in Amsterdam entitled De Verwaarloosde Staat. (see Our Failing Democracy - Part 1).
Let's go back to the influence of the voter, that's what it was all about. Suppose a voter makes a conscious choice for a party. So no gut feeling, no vote against or 'it's such a nice man / woman'. He / she chooses
on the basis of seven of the ten most important election promises that party and the box will be colored red.
But by clapping hands - the negotiations - that party hands in three of those seven beautiful promises just like that. And that's not all. The party of that voter automatically accepts three promises from other parties. Things that were perhaps the pre-eminent reason why that voter would never vote for one of those parties.
Well, then you are (red) colored on it. Would that voter indeed have supported that party if he / she had known? Or to that coalition? That could be a disappointment.
Moreover, he / she does not get a guarantee that the four remaining cases will be realized at all in the next four years. Conclusion, it will be monotonous, influence of the voter? Zero.
In my view, the voter has virtually no influence. Not on the party programs or on the electoral list, not on the interpretation of the election results or the pre-exclusion of certain parties from the coalition, no influence on the composition of the coalition or on the coalition agreement.
Certain groups of voters (almost) do not vote and so their vote is lost. At least, that's the story that is always faithfully told.
I doubt whether their votes will really affect the final outcome, coalition plus coalition agreement. Not even with a turnout of 100%. The Hague mechanisms are designed in such a way that the party bosses always find a way to give the result the desired twist.
In the next section, we consider the myth of the influence of the parliament.
I wish you all wisdom.