How Not to Deal with a Giant: Dutch Intra-Party Cohesion and the EU

  • Abstract:

    Though European issues initially had a very limited impact on party systems in Europe, their importance has grown since the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht. The EU has become an increasingly salient issue amongst voters. Accordingly, one would expect national political parties to take a clear position on how their country should approach the EU. Examining the case of the Netherlands, this paper argues political parties of the ’new’ left and right are communicating much more effectively about the EU than their traditionally dominant counterparts. Based on 49 interviews undertaken in 2011 with Dutch politicians from seven different parties, it is shown that the ’new’ left and right are much more cohesive vis-à-vis EU related issues than older established parties. Regardless of whether these parties take a pro, or anti EU position, this clear positioning makes it much easier for these parties to communicate their vision of what Dutch EU policy should be to the public. This partially helps explain the increased vote share for these parties and their influence over the Dutch European Constitutional Referendum. It also runs counter the expectations often found in the literature on that party cohesion is the norm on issues that are important to a large segment of the electorate.