Two days before election day in the Netherlands, journalists from all over the world gather at the Erasmus University Campus. The university grounds are filled with reporters, camera crews, and security staff.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is holding his press conference here today. Tonight, he and Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV), will have their first public debate on the university grounds.
Why are these journalists interested in our elections? Because they've never been so unpredictable.
Will the Dutch elections trigger a populist domino effect? Donald Trump's surprising victory in last year's US presidential election signalled a turn to the right. Now Europe is facing three critical elections of its own, in the Netherlands, France, and Germany. Will there now be a 'Trump effect' in Europe that puts populist candidates into power? We'll find out tomorrow; so it's no wonder that all eyes are on the Dutch elections.
A camera crew from ITV News is on campus to interview Roy Kemmers, Lecturer in Sociology at Erasmus University College and PhD candidate. In his dissertation he analyses the difference between different discontented citizens: populist party voters and non-voters. Kemmers spent years studying the politically discontented, as you can see in this video.
Who are these political discontents? And who are the indecisives – the people who could surprise us all on the day of the elections?
'When we talk about the indecisives,' says Kemmers, 'we talk about them as if they have no opinion. In Dutch we say "floating voters", as if they have a hard time choosing between 28 political parties. Talking about voters that way, I’d say, shows you’re not taking them seriously. In reality they choose between one or two parties, maybe three.
'For years the Netherlands had clear cut groups. You were born in a certain group, or pillar as we call them, and you voted according to that group. But then society changed and people started to question everything: the church, journalists, banks, institutions. Sociologist Max Weber used to call this process "disenchantment", that he associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity and which he saw as the result of a very long process of rationalisation.'
So who will win the elections tomorrow?
According to Kemmers, the question of whether the Netherlands will be the next domino after Brexit and Trump deserves a nuanced answer. 'Unlike elections in the United States and the UK we will not have one clear winner. We have always been a country of minorities. We have been working together for a long time. So no matter who wins the majority of the votes we have to build a coalition. We will have a government of four or five parties working together in a coalition. That’s the elegance of our system.'
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