Dutch party for voters over 50 sees huge jump in support

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 00:00

A small Dutch political party representing voters over 50 is experiencing a huge increase in support as a result of austerity cutbacks in pensions and healthcare. It would become the country’s second-largest party if an election were held tomorrow, according to polls.

The party, 50Plus, which was founded in 2009 and won just two seats in last year’s general election, would now be catapulted to 24 seats in the 150-seat parliament – behind prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals on 28 but ahead of their junior coalition partners Labour on 23.

As well as illustrating the growing strength of 50Plus, whose influence was confined to the regions and the senate until last year, the polls mark the end of a rocky post-election “honeymoon period” for the government – down from 41 seats to 28 for the Liberals and from 38 to 23 for Labour.

As the detail of the coalition’s €13 billion package of cuts, the frailty of the economy, and particularly the stagnant housing market hit home, anger appears to be concentrated among the well-heeled liberal “grey vote” who own 30-40 per cent of the country’s assets.

Gradual rise in support

The rise in support for 50Plus has been gradual. A Gallup poll three weeks ago showed a boost to 13 seats. A TNS-Nipo poll in the past few days confirmed that trend, increasing the number of seats to 24 and showing that support was draining in particular from Mr Rutte’s economically conservative pro-business Liberals.

With the debate over the economy taking political centre stage here, the TNS-Nipo poll also showed the Socialists in fourth place and Geert Wilders’ right-wing anti-immigration party PVV looking ever more marginalised in fifth place.

Ironically for the coalition, the largest boost for 50Plus came recently when Labour leader Diederik Samsom defended the budget cuts to his left-wing supporters by arguing that rather than being the most vulnerable the over-50s were “the richest age group in the Netherlands”.

50Plus leader Henk Krol, formerly editor-in-chief of the gay magazine Gay Krant, accused Mr Samsom of being disingenuous and challenged him to say what proportion of the assets was owned by those over 65 as against those over 50.