Election night: We carry on!

1 October 2012

Election night: We carry on!

Election night, September 12th, began in an optimistic spirit. Disappointment over the exit polls lasted, said Emile Roemer in his speech, precisely five minutes. The militancy and belligerence of his words conveyed itself to everyone present.

Emile Roemer on Election Night

How many seats would the SP win after such a blistering election campaign? The answer was awaited with excitement by a busload of SP activists from the branches around Roemer’s home town of Boxmeer. They had come in the SP tour bus to The Hague, especially to bolster Emile with the warm heart of his own region. In the bus, people were busily speculating over the result. The dream of winning a large number of seats and getting into government was, during this election campaign, within reach. But after the peak of thirty-nine seats and the ensuing free-fall in the polls, it was hard to make a decent prediction of just how many seats the SP would end up with. That it wouldn’t be thirty or more was clear to all, but a modest gain was surely still possible, or so everyone thought. Once people arrived in the Paard van Troje, the ‘Trojan Horse’ music venue in The Hague where the SP assembled on the evening of the election, however, disappointment was palpably great. The SP would once again have fifteen people in the ‘Tweede Kamer’, the main legislative chamber of the national Parliament. That was not at all what all those SP activists from every corner of the country had hoped for. Among those present were also numerous candidates who three weeks earlier had seemed certain to win a seat in Parliament. Instead of the exuberant party atmosphere characteristic of SP election nights, the room fell silent as the first exit polls came in. Everyone needed to absorb the result.

Widespread sympathy
While everyone present was beginning to discuss the unexpected outcome, well-known SP members were already giving their reactions in front of the cameras. That they had had no great time to prepare was not evident from their answers. Each performance for the media could be followed on a big screen. ‘Of course we would have rather won more seats,’ Member of Parliament Ronald van Raak could be heard saying, ‘but we have certainly gained. The enthusiasm that I have seen at the base in the branches, in that respect we have grown once again, and that is the real gain.’ The extent of the sympathy for the SP on the streets is something that everyone noticed, which is precisely why the feeling remained for many one of defeat. Eric Smaling, number sixteen on the list, took the result calmly. ‘It’s a disappointment in relation to the polls, but ignoring the polls it’s hardly a shock that after just two years you end up with the same number of seats. We really need to break our reliance on these polls.’ The degree of the influence the polls and the two-horse race between centre-right VVD and centre-left PvdA (Labour Party) have had was also underlined by Jan Marijnissen. 'These elections weren’t about sympathy, which the SP still enjoys,’ said the former SP leader and current party chair. ‘They were about power, and when elephants fight the grass gets trampled over. We have not been trampled over.’

Bob Fosko furnished the election night gathering with musical accompaniment, managing to transform the atmosphere with his song 'Wij gaan door' (We carry on). With Fosko’s inspiring melody in the background, Ike Teuling, number twenty on the list, told the assembled SP activists that ‘in the first few days I’ll be really disappointed, but I know that I’ll bounce back more determined than ever. Thanks to the polls we know that we have enough support to win thirty-nine seats. That is a very great deal of potential and on that basis I’ll be pleased to get back to work.’ Arjan Vliegenthart, who played a major role in organising the campaign, has just as much stomach for the fight. Describing himself as ‘a grateful campaign leader’, he said that ‘the atmosphere on the street was so good and we received so much sympathy that this gives me confidence for the future. It wasn’t that the material was lacking, because we distributed more than ever before, and also the size of our membership grew. Now what we have to do is make good on our promises to the voters and continue to support ordinary people rather than the banks.'

The next campaign has already begun
The more votes that were counted up and down the country, the clearer it became: the SP would stay on fifteen seats. At half past eleven the new parliamentary team took the stage to receive the applause and be presented with flowers. Amongst the familiar faces was a newcomer, Arnold Merkies, number fifteen on the list. And then Master of Ceremonies Sjaak Bral announced the number one on the list, Emile ‘there is no alternative to positive thinking’ Roemer. Roemer got going immediately and knew how to put the feelings in the room into words. ‘Of course we are disappointed,’ he admitted, ‘but that will last about five minutes. After that the campaign begins once more, for the next elections, just as we’re used to in the SP. We’ve been knocking on the doors of the powerful and the sacred places, and I can promise you one thing. They won’t keep me out for long, and they won’t keep us out for long. The opposition was on this occasion still too strong, but if anyone thinks that we are negative about this, over my dead body! We have a stable basis and we are going to extend this still further so that we will soon also win people’s confidence in the final sprint. That will be hard work, but there’s no party which does that as well as we do.’ Following Roemer’s resounding speech, all of the emotion in the room was released, as could be heard in the applause. As soon as he had finished speaking, journalists were wanting to interview Emile Roemer, but they had no chance of picking their way through the singing, dancing public. Another Bob Fosko song, 'Een mens is meer' (A human being is more) was sung along to with great gusto, and as dancers burst the balloons which had been released from the ceiling to find their way down to the floor, they sounded like fireworks. New Year’s Eve had come early, it seemed, as SP activists waved goodbye to the weeks of campaigning and welcomed in the new political reality. And they celebrated their renewed appetite for the fight: we carry on!

Carry on

Result nationally
VVD (centre-right ‘Liberals’)
PvdA (Labour Party)
PVV (populist right)
CDA (Christian Democrats)
D66 (progressive liberals)
CU (Christian Union)
GL (Green Left)
SGP (Christian right)
PvdD (Animals’ Party)
50Plus (Party for older people)

Text: Jola van Dijk
Photographs: Hans van den Poel

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