Elections in the Netherlands are just hours away and GroenLinks, a green pro-European party, is set for a meteoric rise and its best electoral performance ever. Polls suggest the party could jump from its four seats to as many as 20. But what does the party stand for?
GroenLinks (literally GreenLeft) formed in 1989 as a merger of four different left-wing parties: the Communist Party of the Netherlands, the Pacifist Socialist Party, the Political Party of Radicals, and the Evangelical People’s Party. In a similar way to the CDA, the parties united after losing seats in parliament and wanting to maximise their chances of winning votes.
However, the merger ran into immediate turbulence, with differences between socialists, communists and liberals in the party causing problems in the creation of a party manifesto.
Party support peaked in 1998, achieving 11 seats in parliament, but GroenLinks became divided over the Kosovo War in 1999. Representatives of the party in parliament supported NATO intervention in the conflict, but those who represented the party in the Senate was against it. The party eventually reached a compromise: it would support intervention, but only if NATO limited itself to military targets. This didn’t stop several prominent members leaving the party, however, including Marcus Bakker, former leader of the Communist Party of the Netherlands.
2001 also saw upheaval for the party. Tara Singh Varma, a former GroenLinks MP, was forced to apologise on national television after it was revealed she was lying about suffering from terminal cancer. She had attended parliament in a wheelchair on a number of occasions and quit as an MP, claiming to only have months left to live. After being exposed, Singh Varma first attempted to sue the journalists who did so, before eventually admitting that she is a compulsive liar. To add to this, the US-led invasion of Afghanisation after the September 11th attacks caused another rift in the party, forcing the parliamentary party to go from supporting the invasion to opposing it.
More recently, in the last election in 2012, the party fell to its lowest level in its history. GroenLinks won only four seats and only just over 2% of the vote.
The party combines left-wing ideas with green politics, with five main principles:
- Protection of the Earth and respect for wildlife
- Fair distribution of natural resources between all citizens of the world
- Just distribution of income and a fair chance for everyone to work, care and be educated
- Creation of a pluralist society where everyone can participate
- Ensuring peace and respect for human rights
GroenLinks has also embraced environmentalism and feminism in its ideology.
- Cut market influence in the health service and add 30,000 more nurses
- Eliminate the excess in health care
- Crack down on so-called ‘mailbox companies’ who route their profits through the Netherlands
- Fight against tax breaks for multinational corporations
- Create more jobs, provide more stable employment for people and cut taxes for workers
- Raise tax on pollution to reduce tax on labour
- Reduce the pressure that teachers suffer in the workplace by investing in time and space for teachers
- More janitors and classroom assistants at schools
- Greater availability for education for adults to tackle adult illiteracy
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, with a renewable energy supply by 2050
- Invest in green innovation, clean energy and new jobs
- Raise taxes on pollution, whilst reducing taxes on labour and green innovation
- Close the coal plants and end government subsidies to them
Equal opportunities and freedoms
- Reform the Constitution to explicitly say that there should be no discrimination between people
- Remove outdated laws which restrict freedom of expression, such as ban on insulting the king and friendly heads of state
- Ensure asylum seekers to the Netherlands learn the language from day one and provide education for children of refugees
- Make sure everyone feels represented by the police by encouraging more police officer and agents from a migrant background
- Continue to ensure the Netherlands remains a safe haven for those fleeing war, violence and oppression
WHAT DO THE POLLS SAY?
The most recent seat projections show GroenLinks doing extremely well and that the party could be on course for their most successful election ever. Some polls in the last month have shown the party on course to win as many as 20 seats. Regardless of the final number of seats, what is almost certain is that GroenLinks is set to roughly quadruple its number of representatives in parliament.