Just two more days to go until the big day of the general election on March 15! I introduce to you this year’s party leaders, in the least politically correct way possible. But hey, who ever said that there’s no fun in politics? This list features the six parties that sealed at least ten seats in the 2012 general election — starting with the largest party, then going all the way down to the layabouts…
Mark Rutte (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, 41 seats)
Our good-humoured Prime Minister! Often criticised for his broken promises, but still charming in his own right. In fact, he might well be the most wanted single in the whole country right now. Foolish enough to agree to work with Geert Wilders six years ago, wise enough not to repeat said experiment ever again. All in all, I think he’s a likeable person. He studied Dutch history at Leiden University, where he obtained a Master’s degree in 1992, after which he gradually worked his way up towards the top, working for several companies before he finally ended up in The Hague. He actually already had some political experience then, having been the chairman of the Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy (a group full of young preps) during his studies. What’s not to like? D’oh!
Lodewijk Asscher (Labour Party, 38 seats)
A genuinely great Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the outgoing cabinet, who did everything he could to cherish the social cohesion in this country (or whatever was still left of it). However, it seems as if he’s someone who’s just not tough enough to run a political party, and the latest polls appear to be confirming this, as they have the Labour Party at a shocking all-time low of nine seats. I know it’s pointless, but I sometimes can’t help but wonder how well he would’ve done a few decades ago, when the whole political climate seemed far less vicious than it is today. Oh well… Asscher did a Ph.D. in law at our very own University of Amsterdam, and he was a researcher (as well as a teacher later on) at a related institute in the years that followed — that is, until 2006, when he went into politics. Unlike many colleagues, Asscher still lives in Amsterdam.
Geert Wilders (Party for Freedom, 15 seats)
Does this man really need an introduction? A populist in heart and soul, but far more intelligent than that blond on the other side of the ocean with an equally strange coupe. Geert Wilders is one of those weird ones. He’s the toughest of them all, a great fighter — and I say that very sincerely — but let’s be honest here: he probably won’t achieve all that much. After finishing high school, Wilders first travelled around the world. He wanted to see Australia, but due to a lack of money, he first went to Israel instead. According to himself, he instantly became a friend of the country’s, and he was shocked to see the lack of democracy in surrounding countries. It’s thus possible that the foundation of Wilders’ train of thought was laid during that very trip. Wilders took a course in health insurance in Amsterdam and earned several law certificates at the Dutch Open University.
Emile Roemer (Socialist Party, 15 seats)
The clown of the lot. The kind of man who could’ve been your uncle telling awkward jokes at a family gathering, and he even has the accent to go with it. Cringe! Still, you gotta give him credit for the way in which he’s led the party in the past seven years, for at least he’s a resilient person. In fact, his party got very close to becoming the largest party in the 2012 general election, until Diederik Samsom — Labour Party’s previous party leader, who was replaced by Lodewijk Asscher just a few months ago — made a very strong entrance into Dutch politics and managed to win over its voters just in time, after which they were surpassed by Mark Rutte’s VVD as well. In terms of education, Roemer studied to be a primary school teacher, and he actually was one for almost 16 years before he finally moved to The Hague. He became the party’s leader in 2010.
Sybrand van Haersma Buma (Christian Democratic Appeal, 13 seats)
An otherwise decent Christian who has suddenly turned into a self-declared leader during the recent debates. In Wilders’ absence, Van Haersma Buma has tried to fill the gap on the right-hand side of the political spectrum by acting tough against Islam. It didn’t seem all that genuine to me, but it does seem to have worked, for his party has been on the rise in the latest polls, currently sitting at almost 20 seats. Some people seriously think that he might be the next Prime Minister, a scenario I really don’t wish upon… well, myself. Van Haersma Buma studied Dutch law at the University of Groningen. A follow-up course on international law at the University of Cambridge completed his studies. He then worked as a criminal defence lawyer for the Council of State before going down the politics route.
Alexander Pechtold (Democrats 66, 12 seats)
A respected politician who has been a Member of Parliament for over ten years now. He studied art history and archaeology at Leiden University with a specialisation in 17th-century paintings, but it wasn’t until the age of 30 that he finished his Master’s degree. The reason? He had already landed a job as an auctioneer by then. Given his field of study, you’d be surprised to see how much Pechtold knows about economics, although he does make the occasional mistake as well. For some reason, I’ve always thought of him as the Dutch David Cameron, but it seems unlikely that Pechtold will ever be Prime Minister himself. Bad luck, Alexander! Much like Cameron, Pechtold’s party sits somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, so at least there’s a serious chance that he’ll end up in the next cabinet. We’ll see what happens; I think he deserves it.
GreenLeft leader Jesse Klaver (a promising political talent of just thirty years old), Henk Krol (leader of the 50PLUS party, see the hilarious video below), and Sylvana Simons (who paid a visit to our faculty a few weeks ago) are all people to look out for during the upcoming election. Best of luck to all the candidates, and to the Dutch readers I’d just like to say: please go and vote!