Ruttes appearance in the coronacrisis pays off in the polls. In the last poll, a summary of the polls of Ipsos, I&O Research and Kantar, the VVD stands at 42 seats. That is a very broad lead over the second party, the PVV, which has 20 seats. According to political scientist Tom van der Meer, the virtual growth of the VVD is mainly due to the transition of voters from Forum for Democracy, CDA and 50Plus.
“ Im not a fan of the VVD or its views,” says hotel-receptionist Gioia. Yet she will vote for the VVD for the first time in her life in the upcoming elections. “He has proven himself as a leader, and there is a huge challenge to lead our country out of the coronacrisis.”
With all winds
Gioia previously voted for Party for the Animals and GroenLinks. Now she chooses Rutte. She does not worry about overly right-wing views of the VVD. She agrees with people who say that Rutte blows with all the winds. But thats why Rutte is “just so nice to vote for”, says 30-year-old Amsterdam.
There are more people who think that way. The 63-year-old Hannes Negerman voted for much of his life left, but now goes for Rutte. With another leader, the former union man would drop out. “If the VVD then goes back to its old principles, then Im probably going to shift again. Rutte is sometimes called left and I think thats right. Hes not really a pure VVDer.”
Left and right outdated terms
Mark Rutte himself still finds the VVD on the right. “I find outdated terms on the left and right anyway,” he says to Nieuwsuur. But if you were to force me with the knife to my throat, the Netherlands is a centre-right country and the VVD is a centre-right party.”
But the VVD, after having made compromises with left-hand parties for years, now also opts for a more left-hand course. The election program presented by the party today includes “old-fashioned” VVD positions such as stricter demands on migrants and the criminalisation of illegality.
At the same time, the party is also taking a step to the left with a plea for a strong government, a higher minimum wage and less market forces. The VVD wants to refine the frayed edges of capitalism.
Risk of right flank
That will cause some voters to drop out. Butcher Cees van den Heuvel voted years VVD, but finds that the party has “strayed”. Hes struggling with a number of cases. “The climate agreement, immigration, paying a lot of money to Brussels, that sort of thing.”
According to political scientist Tom van der Meer, there is a risk that the VVD will turn in on the right flank, as the party moves more towards the middle. “But then there must be an acceptable challenger. Last year Forum for Democracy was stronger, but that challenger has made it difficult for himself. And the PVV has no control over the image. For right-wing voters who want to influence government policy, the right is not really an alternative. This makes it easier for the VVD to tilt towards the center.”
Cooperation with PVV
Rutte himself has said earlier that it is “not conceivable” that the VVD and the PVV will rule together. That hasnt changed, he says now. At Forum for Democracy, Rutte keeps the door open, although he thinks it matters a lot how Forum is acting. “Is it then about the FVD in Brabant with which we work well with, or the FVD that is mainly the egomachine of Thierry Baudet? That question needs to be answered.”
As long as Rutte is popular in the coronacrisis, according to Van der Meer, it is risky to attack him on leadership. “Yet we see that happening. CDA leader Hugo de Jonge presents himself as prime minister candidate, and D66 leader Sigrid Kaag does so. But that works mainly to the advantage of Rutte, because leadership is precisely his strong point.”
The intertwining of Rutte and the VVD now provide virtual profits, but according to Van der Meer, also pose a danger. “If Rutte is going to have a hard time, he drags the VVD into his trap. And what we saw in the past with other parties is that if the Prime Minister leaves you could lose half or a third of the seats.”