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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Globe Reports the Dutch Election


The dear old mainstream media is incorrigible. They’ll never change.

The headlines after the Dutch election read:

BBC: European relief as mainstream triumphs  
PBS: Dutch reject far-right Geert Wilders in national election for prime minister 
Guardian: GreenLeft proves to be big winner in Dutch election 
Independent: Green Party big winner of Dutch elections. 
Globe and Mail: Centre-left shift in Dutch elections deals blow to populism

These headlines range from spin to fake news.

This is mostly not malicious. But then, neither is most “fake news.” The problem is the need to come up with a striking headline, that will tempt the reader to keep reading the story. “Click-bait” is no new thing—the print equivalent has always been at the core of the news business. Nor is this, in itself, wrong. There is nothing bad about making things sound interesting. The problem is that, too often, the story seems to be falsified for the sake of a good lede.

Here, specifically, the problem is that the election results were indecisive. And they closely reflected the final polls. So what can you say to make them sound important and surprising?

And, then again, some of it is just partisan hackery. The last three headlines, the Guardian., the Independent, and the Globe and Mail, really cannot be explained on other grounds.

Would you know from this glance at the days headlines that the government coalition collapsed? And the “Greens” came in tied for fifth place, with less than 10% of the seats? That’s as though the Liberals or the NDP pulled 30 seats. Big win?

Mark Rutte’s centre-right VVD hung on to the title of largest party, losing eight seat and ending with 33 in the 150-seat house. Seems less than a ringing endorsement. But that is why the headline cannot be “Dutch government falls.” The ruling coalition did indeed fall; but as the head of the largest party, Rutte has first chance to form a new one.

The biggest story is probably that his coalition partner, until now the second-largest party, Labour, sister to Labour in the UK, was crushed. They lost 29 of their 38 seats.

Okay, “second-largest party crushed” does not draw well. But then, how is the collapse of the largest party on the left a move to the left?

The new second-largest party is Wilders’ Trumpesque PVV. They picked up five seats, for 20. If Rutte cannot cobble together a working coalition, he'll get a crack at it. But his chances look to be slim to none.

The second-biggest shift was the Green Party picking up ten seats. But this is no ideological shift to the left of the electorate: the votes that Labour lost had to go somewhere. It turns out that only a third of them stayed on the left, then, with the Greens. Who are clearly also-rans here.

The Christian Democrats, on the right, picked up six seats. And they have five more seats than the Greens. The leftist Socialist Party dropped one seat. D66, whose main issue is direct democracy, picked up seven. Does that count as left or right?

Given the results, at least four parties will be needed to form a government. And they won’t all be on the same side ideologically. So it looks as though any new government may not last. The

Since he heads the largest party, Rutte get first crack. Looking at the seat totals, and who can likely agree on policy, the best bet seems to be a coalition of Rutte (conservative), the Christian Democrats (conservative), D66 (not clear), the Christian Union (conservative), 50Plus (conservative), and maybe the Party for the Animals (you decide). This would be a significant move to the right; remembering that Rutte’s own party is conservative. There are no available coalitions that would move the government to the left. There are available coalitions that would move it further than this to the right—but Rutte has vowed not to allow Wilders into government.

There you go: “Centre-left shift in Dutch elections deals blow to populism.”

You read it in the Globe first.


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