At the parliamentary elections of 15th May the SP won the support of 559,000 voters, representing 5.9% of the total poll and a near-doubling of the level of support at the last elections in 1998. The SP now has nine MPs (1998: five) in the Tweede Kamer (Second Chamber), the directly elected and more significant house of the Dutch parliament. In addition to more voters, the SP’s election campaign attracted more new members, growing from 27,000 in January to a current total of around 30,000.
The parliamentary group of the SP in the Tweede Kamer now consists of five men and four women, of whom four were members before the election and five are new to parliament: Jan Marijnissen, Agnes Kant, Harry van Bommel, Jan de Wit, Krista van Velzen, Piet de Ruiter, Ali Lazrak, Fenna Vergeer en Arda Gerkens. Remi Poppe, MP left the Tweede Kamer at his own request after eight years as a member, but his extra-parliamentary activities around environmental and food issues will continue.
The election campaign of 2002 vividly demonstrated the existence of mass anger with the governing coalition and growing support, on the right, for the new list Pim Fortuyn and, in recent weeks, the Christian Democrats of the CDA; on the left, support grew (initially) for the Green Left, and the SP. The cowardly murder on the 6th May of the right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn led to a huge outburst of disgust with the governing parties.
The election result represented a political earthquake of unprecedented scale. The ruling coalition of social democrats (PvdA), right- and left-wing liberals (VVD, D66) lost in the end half of its support (PvdA from 45 to 23, VVD from 38 to 24, D66 from 14 to 7). Gains went to the opposition Christian Democrats (CDA, from 29 to 43), the new right-populist LPF (from 0 to 26!), and, on the left, the SP (from 5 to 9). The opposition party Green Left, which was originally riding high in the opinion polls, lost one seat and now has 10 seats.
During the campaign the SP, and above all its leader and Number 1 on its list, Jan Marijnissen, who was the SP’s first MP in 1994,won more and more support. The combination of vigorous opposition, both inside and outside parliament, to the “purple” neoliberal governing coalition, with a point-by-point critique of the solutions offered by the right-populist Fortuyn for rebuilding the “purple ruins”, seems to have been appreciated by numerous voters.
The SP advocated massive investment in the public sector. The party had its election programme, Eerste Weg Links (First Way Left), assessed by the Central Planning Bureau, which also passed judgement on the manifestos of the other parties. The Planning Bureau considered (to the astonishment of the other parties) that the SP’s proposals were achievable and affordable, and that they would not lead to a budget shortfall or an increase in the national debt.
Central to this election programme was the reconstruction of the public sector, a redistribution of knowledge, income and power and the prioritisation of ecology over economy. The SP put forward proposals for a moratorium on plans to privatise, amongst other things, the energy sector; for the introduction of a national sickness insurance scheme; for far-reaching investment at all levels of education; for the furthering of the integration of people of foreign origin through a better spread of immigrants and non-immigrants in residential areas, schools and jobs; and for the maintenance of the social security law. The SP also proposed that the Netherlands leave NATO and that no new powers be handed over from national authorities to the European Union. Finally, the contribution to development co-operation should, according to the SP, be raised from 0.7% to 1% of GDP.
SP support, which was previously concentrated in a limited number of districts, can now be found throughout the country. In the capital, Amsterdam, almost 11% voted SP. In Oss, the home of Jan Marijnissen, the figure was 19%.
Support amongst low- and middle-income voters was respectively 9% and 7%, average (5.9%) amongst high income groups and 3% amongst those on the highest incomes. Above average support also came from the youngest voters (7%), whilst it was average amongst 25-44-year-olds, 8% in the overlapping category of 35-64 year-olds, and 3% amongst the oldest voters, those over 65.
New SP voters had previously supported the PvdA (social democrats), Green Left, D66 (left-leaning liberals) and support also came from people who had not voted last time.
During the campaign potential voters were continually informed of the possibility of becoming members, and with success: total membership grew from 27,000 in January to a current total of more than 30,000. In comparison, the PvdA now has 58,000 members and the Green Left 17,000.