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Parliamentary parties and participation -- the Dutch experience

Even after considerable shrinkage, the Christian Democrat CDA retains around 95,000 members. Our own Socialist Party has recently passed 20,000. D66, on the other hand, has only 15,000. According to a 1995 survey conducted by the University of Groningen, only 3% of the Dutch population are members of a political party, and of these only one in every ten is active. What this means is that, no more than 30,000 people are involved in party politics. Thus limiting input into the system and therefore the range of ideas on offer to the electorate and leading inexorably to the development of a system of patronage, preference and graft such as already exists in, for example, Belgium and Italy.

As parties throughout Europe cease to make any real attempt to involve the people in the process of ideological development, preferring instead to base their activities on superficially attractive leaders, `sound-bite' policy statements and slavish adherence to the whimsical movements of opinion polls, this phenomenon advances on all fronts. The result is that everywhere the political caste looks increasingly to its own interests and less and less to those of the electorate. The gap between voter and politician, between citizen and government, grows ever wider, threatening to discredit the democratic process itself.
from Enough! - A socialist bites back
by Jan Marijnissen

1992 73,000 15,122 13,548
1993 59,464 15,517 12,500
1994 68,053 15,978 12,500
1995 64,525 16,899 12,000
1996 64,523 17,056 12,000
1997 60,907 19,926 11,700
1998 61,720 21,975 11,873
1999 61,600 25,052 13,821
2000 61,000 26,198 13,855
2001 58,426 26,553 14,314
2002 57,374 27,291 15,037
2003 60,062 36,406 18,469
2004 61,935 43,389 20,503
2005 61,111 44,299 20,709
2006 61,913 44,853 21,383
2007 62,846 50,740 23,539
2008 59,327 50,238 21,901
Figures January 1st
Source: Documentatiecentrum Nederlandse Politieke Partijen
"No members, no party. This is true of any party, but it goes doubly for an activist movement like the SP. Since the beginning of 2005 the SP has been, in terms of membership, the third biggest party in the Netherlands (compare the membership figures since 1992). And, amongst these 50,000 SP members, unprecedented numbers are actively involved in their party – a good 38%, or well over a third of the membership. If you want to know more about SP members, a comprehensive survey is available."

3 Com:

Dave Riley | March 29, 2008

I should perhaps add that this web book-- Enough. -- should be read. It's a very good exploration of the socialist perspective for the 21st century from a Dutch Socialist Party -- the "Tomato" Party -- POV.

Ticks all the right boxes I reckon.

Anonymous | March 30, 2008

I disagree that it is a 'very good exploration.' It is, rather, a reactionary one, the author being against children's rights and a truly equal society.

Dave Riley | March 30, 2008

Lichen I don't know the full perspective of the Dutch SP as I am not fluent in Dutch. But I doubt that I'm supposed to agree with everything the party says or does. (eg: their early stance on immigraion and Dutch workers rights)

But I am nonetheless surprized at how much of "Enough" I do agree with. And for a perspective like that advocated in Enough to be put out more or less in the name of 50,000 party members suggests to me that the Dutch experience is worth taking note of. So I'm being an advocate and saying: look at this!

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