Elections in the Netherlands are now only one day away and the Socialist Party will be hoping to regain some of their former glory, having once been the third largest party in Dutch politics. At a time where the far-right have dominated the political agenda, could this left wing party claim a surprise victory?
The Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij – SP) began life in 1971 as a Maoist political party, known as Communist Party of the Netherlands/Marxist-Leninist (KPN/ML) after a split from the similarly named Communist Movement of the Netherlands (Marxist-Leninist) over a heated debate on the role of intellectuals in class struggle. The party rebranded the following year to the ‘Socialist Party’ and, although they remained Maoist in loyalty, they frequently spoke out against the Communist Party of China.
The party began contesting elections in 1977, but made no progress; prior to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the party peaked at 0.5% of the vote in 1982. In 1991, as the Soviet Union and its satellite states began to crumble, the party officially abolished the term Marxism-Leninism. Three years later, the Socialist Party saw their first MPs elected to the House of Representatives, after achieving 1.3% of the vote in elections in 1994.
Support for the party continued to increase its share of the vote, peaking in 2006 with almost 17% of the vote and 25 seats; this made the party the third largest party in the House of Representatives.
However, the party’s dropped significantly in the following election, losing 10 seats. In the most recent election in 2012, the party maintained its total of 15 seats, despite its support dipping slightly.
The party, which describes itself as the most active party in the Netherlands, is a social democratic party which stands for a platform of principles, known as ‘The Whole of Humanity’ (Heel de Mens). There are three parts to this platform: human dignity (respect for one person for another), equivalence (tolerance throughout society), and solidarity (helping and caring for each other).
The Socialist Party is fighting this year’s election on 10 main manifesto points:
- Stop the marketisation of healthcare
- Create a National Health Fund and provide coverage for everyone in the areas of mental health, dentistry, and physiotherapy
- Improved standards for education
- Fight for smaller class sizes, as well as creating a study grant for all students and a higher supplementary grant for those from lower-income households
- More work and more purchasing power
- Raise the minimum wage by 10% and lower the retirement age to 65
- Affordable housing
- Greater funding to housing associations and oblige them to build more affordable housing
- Restrict the ability of housing associations to sell social housing
- Fair shares and fair tax payments
- End the Netherlands’ role as a tax haven by ensuring corporations and multinationals pay their taxes to contribute to society
- Create a national people’s bank to secure people’s savings
- Reform of the European Union
- Negotiate a new European treaty to reinforce the independence of affiliated countries and increasing citizens’ opportunities for participation
- Aim to abolish the European Commission
- Invest in more neighbourhood police officers, as well as more financial investigators
- Tolerance and diversity
- Introduce small-scale reception facilities for refugees and conduct an active diversity policy, including for LGBT people
- Sustainable and renewable energy
- Greater investment into renewable energy to lead to more employment and lower energy costs for the public
- Transform intensive industrial farming into animal-friendly and sustainable husbandry
- ‘Seize the power’
- Fight against equality and for good services and democratic control
- Greater direct democracy through referenda, and greater voices for employees and patients on company boards and the health service respectively
WHAT DO THE POLLS SAY?
The most recent seat projections suggest that, once again, the number of seats held by the Socialist Party will remain the same. Polls this month have not put the seats that SP are likely to win above 16 (one more than they currently hold), but they could win as few as 12 seats. This could spell serious questions for the party’s future direction, as the party would have failed to maintain the success it received in elections over a decade ago.