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What are the main plans of the political parties?

Political parties are often busy with it for months, but who reads them? Election programs evoke scornful comments every parliamentary elections. Beautiful plans, often loosely formulated, doomed to be read little. And how many of those promises are kept?

But even though few voters read election programs, they have a major influence on the new cabinet policy – and also tell a lot about how parties will behave in the coming years. There is “considerable agreement between the positions that parties take in their programs and what they say in parliament,” says political scientist Tom Louwerse, who published a study on this in 2011. That sounds logical, but voters have little faith in it, says Louwerse.

For the period 1986-2017, economist Wimar Bolhuis investigated what promises the parties made that later ended up in a cabinet. Bolhuis used the plans that the parties had calculated by the economists of the Central Planning Bureau. Bolhuis: “This shows that 69 percent of the promises eventually ended up in the coalition agreement.”

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Bolhuis also discovered that there is one striking promise to voters, which is often not fulfilled: the tax burden on citizens has been higher under each cabinet since 1986 than previously promised. That is a possible explanation for the distrust among voters.

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The programs do indirectly inform voters. Via the criticism or praise of civil society organizations on certain plans. Via summaries in the media. And especially through the popular Stemwijzer and Kieskompas, which present propositions and thus help people determine which party is close to their beliefs. For the parliamentary elections in 2017, the Voting Guide was completed almost seven million times.

To help voters, summed up NRC the programs of fourteen political parties that appear in the Polling Guide (a weighted average of polls from three agencies) per theme briefly. With the online NRC Voting Assistance allows voters to browse the plans by theme or party. Here are a few things that stood out.

From very detailed to super short

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The shortest election program this year is not from the PVV. In the past, they managed to limit their own ideas to one A4 page. This time 52 pages are used, 30 more than the last 50Plus, and 20 more than the SP, although there are more words in the SP: 9,900 compared to the 9,200 of the PVV.

D66 takes the cake in pages (208), words (70,000) and with an almost official precision. Article link

The ChristenUnie (144 pages, 62,000 words) also explains in extreme detail how the country should proceed.

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The Forum for Democracy and split-off JA21 programs are very similar (they are the only ones advocating the protection of “categorical gymnasia”), but JA21 takes nearly twice as many words to say much the same thing.

Dreaming is allowed again – and throwing money too

Despite all the misery, the corona crisis also has a ‘liberating’ effect: money is allowed to roll. Partly because of the pandemic, there is more emphasis on idealism and ambitions and less on feasibility and costs. A higher national debt is allowed again – and with it dreams too. Interest is low, European fiscal rules are (equally) less important.

And so the word ‘billions’ often appears in the programs. GroenLinks wants to set up a Climate Fund of 60 billion euros, the PvdA wants a ‘corona rescue fund’ and ‘billions in necessary investments’, the ChristenUnie wants to invest 50 billion in ‘one-off projects’ in the field of public transport, the region, over the next ten years, innovation, climate and energy. And even the VVD writes: “Instead of cutting back, we can actually stimulate the economy.”

However, the concern about who will pay the bill is never far away. “Free money does not exist,” writes the CDA. D66 argues for one mid-term review to see if the financial priorities are still right halfway through the cabinet term.

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The public sector matters again

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The public sector is in need of revaluation: there are few political parties that seem to agree so glowingly. Even the VVD writes: “A retreating government was for decades the recipe for a good business climate, economic growth and increasing people’s prosperity.” Now the party says: “Article link

The market alone has not always been able to arrange this properly itself.”

Right-wing middle parties are generally more left-wing than four years ago, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the gap with left-wing parties has narrowed. Because left-wing parties have also become more left-wing.

Almost all parties believe that care providers, teachers and police officers deserve a decent salary. Opinions differ on what constitutes a decent salary. Many parties believe that there should be a structural salary increase, at least for care providers and teachers. Article link

The VVD believes that teachers have already improved and that care providers are helped more with “more attractive working conditions”.

Also widely supported is the desire to invest more in implementing organizations such as benefits agency UWV, immigration service IND and the tax authorities. Not in the least because of the Supplement Affair, in which citizens were wrongly labeled as fraudsters.

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The Netherlands is broken and needs to be repaired

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The image of the Netherlands that emerges is that of a DIY home. There are many things that need to be repaired and previous reforms to be reversed. As on the labor market: many parties point to the proliferation of flex contracts. We “fix the mistakes of policy overruns,” the CDA said. By making flexible contracts more expensive, permanent employment must be reinstated, many parties say. Left-wing parties want to reverse previous austerity measures in social security. Article link

The VVD also thinks there should be a safety net for all workers, including self-employed people.

Many parties see a crisis in education: children do not learn to read properly, the inequality of opportunities is increasing. Article link

The tax system, spatial planning, agriculture, the housing market – everything must also be changed. Care must be organized differently: in the neighborhood (50Plus), in the neighborhood (GroenLinks), more regional (D66), with less market forces (CDA), as a utility (PvdA), via a national care fund (SP). Where regional hospitals continue to exist and GPs are given more time for patients.

Also striking: many parties see a lot in prevention or ‘lifestyle interventions’, as D66 calls it. Article link

The Party for the Animals therefore wants to limit new establishments of fast food chains and snack bars. Article link

The SGP is of the opinion that government funding for top sport should be better ‘aimed at stimulating exercise’. Many parties want to abolish VAT on fruit and vegetables. Article link

The corona crisis also has an impact: many parties want more intensive care beds.

Greater struggle with Europe

More or less Europe: this is the question that is usually central to the Dutch debate about the European Union. Political parties are struggling with this more than four years ago. Article link

The realization that the Netherlands is too small to tackle international problems itself is now greater.

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The SGP remains a euro-critical party, but, like many other parties, believes that the EU should take more control over the production of medicines and aids. Article link

The CDA wants “a more self-confident EU that stands for more than just an internal market”. Article link

The VVD still does not want a lot (no extra financial solidarity, no increase in the Dutch contribution) but calls EU membership “crucial for Dutch prosperity and security”.

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The ChristenUnie, critical of the EU and the euro four years ago, is now calling aloud for more European cooperation in the field of climate and migration, but also in the field of defense. JA21 is concerned about “China’s assertiveness, the difficult relationship with Russia and the political polarization in the US”. Unlike the FVD, the party does not speak out for a Nexit.

Big companies the cigar

Large companies are less popular, SMEs are even more popular. Small and medium-sized businesses were mentioned 4 times in the VVD’s previous election manifesto, now 35. Smaller companies deserve “more protection against unfair competition from Big Tech and Big State companies,” the VVD says. “During the liberal struggle against an oversized and patronizing government, the power of some private parties has sometimes overshot.”

Also read: Capitalism becomes a bit more social in electoral programs of major parties

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The power of large companies is a recurring theme in the programs, but with different accents. Left-wing parties especially demand an end to the favorable tax regime for large companies and all kinds of subsidies. Middle parties are more often concerned about the geopolitical ease with which large American companies and Chinese companies, often with state aid, are able to buy into the EU – while conversely this is much more difficult. And on the right flank, the parties are mainly concerned about censorship, because Twitter and Facebook also appear to be closing the information tap.

Cultural struggle in education

Trench warfare is raging over what should be taught to children and young people. One camp wants more attention for the colonial past, racism, human rights, citizenship and sex education (PvdD, Denk, D66, GroenLinks). Article link

The other demands action against ‘leftist indoctrination’ and Islamic education (PVV, JA21, FVD, SGP). Article link

The PvdD wants meat to be the exception in school canteens (“Carnivore? Pass it on!”). Article link

The PVV wants the flag to be hoisted daily, to “emphasize our Dutch character”.

There is consensus about low literacy. Article link

The CDA and the PvdA want an ‘offensive’ to improve reading skills. There is even more consensus about the size of classes and schools. Education should be on a smaller scale, think both the PVV and Denk. Article link

The SP is waging “a small class struggle”.

Climate policy has become mainstream

In 2017, election programs paid less attention to climate policy, while the Rutte III cabinet subsequently announced far-reaching policy in that area. This time the theme is discussed extensively. There is also really something to choose. D66, GroenLinks and the Party for the Animals want the Netherlands to go faster than the European Union in reducing CO2emissions. By taxing the emissions of companies more heavily, by introducing road pricing or by shrinking livestock. VVD, CDA and ChristenUnie want to stay in line at the European level, fearing that activity will disappear to other countries. Article link

The SP and PvdA opt for a sharpened goal, but for the PvdA preferably in a European context.

Another point of contention: nuclear energy. CDA and VVD see a solution in this, but for GroenLinks, PvdA, SP and the Party for the Animals a new nuclear power plant is out of the question. D66 keeps the door open, but does not want to invest a subsidy in nuclear energy. Article link

The ChristenUnie does not exclude nuclear power plants, but wind and sun are preferred. There are only a few parties that reject climate policy: PVV, FVD and JA21.

Migration remains a political minefield

It is the subject that may have been the least successful during the Rutte III cabinet: asylum and migration. Article link

The VVD hardly wanted to make any concessions to the coalition partners and at European level it was also not possible to achieve a less messy asylum policy. Judging by the election programs, that scenario threatens to repeat itself. In some areas the VVD may have become more left-wing, but in the area of ​​asylum the party is not.

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The VVD finds the asylum policy too attractive. Article link

The resettlement of vulnerable refugees is made dependent on the support for this, and that can be ‘also zero’. In principle, refugees must eventually return to their country of origin, unless they are “self-reliant”. This is in stark contrast to D66, which wants to increase the UN quota for vulnerable refugees tenfold, from five hundred to five thousand people per year. Or with the ChristenUnie, which argues for a return of the discretionary power of a member of government to grant asylum.

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