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A touch of America in Dutch politics

March 2, 2010

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What is this American school bus from Beverly Hills, California doing in the Netherlands? For the past week it has traveled to five Dutch cities as part of an election tour by Nova, the Dutch leading public broadcasting news show. Today, the final day before tomorrow’s nationwide city council elections, the bus is visiting my hometown of Rotterdam.

The school bus is not the only American element in Dutch politics. In an effort to increase voter turnout, politicians no longer rely on handing out leaflets at the local mall alone. In stead, volunteers in cities like Almere and Zaandam are going door-by-door inviting voters. Much like Obama’s successful grass root campaign that of course also heavily relied on the use of social media. Only a couple of years ago democratic candidate Howard Dean surprised America by using the Internet to build a loyal community and to raise unprecedented amounts of political contributions. While fund raising will not be a major part of Dutch political campaigning anytime soon, many Dutch politicians are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to their advantage.

In the contents of campaigning we can also see a sense of American influence if you will. Where Dutch politics traditionally has been dry, polite and facts based, political parties are increasingly opting for a more personal approach. The Dutch won’t go as far as to dig into their opponent’s life hoping to find something for negative campaigning. But a recent promotional video from liberal party VVD where labor party leader Wouter Bos visits a doctor to treat the whole in his pocket – his hand as the Dutch idiom goes –  is remarkable at the very least. (Unfortunately for the English readers the video is only in Dutch).

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