For all those interested (probably not many of you), the Dutch national elections are coming up. Again. The definite drawback of coalition government is that regular elections are pretty much inevitable, because it’s pretty surprising if a cabinet completes its 4 year term. The last one didn’t, and a couple of months on, I have to say I’m pretty unimpressed with the new electoral campaign so far.
Cycling to town today, I had a good opportunity to inspect the campaign posters that appeared on notice boards everywhere. They struck me as rather unsettling: the first poster I saw depicted Alexander Pechtold, leader of the liberal democratic party and self-styled best friend of students. His unusually large eyes were leering back at me from the shadows. The lighting placed a special emphasis on the black rings around his sagging eye lids. In fact, the likeness to one just escaped from the wizard prison Azkaban wasn’t lost on me- it’s mainly the hope-starved expression, as if he knows he’ll never be successful again. I expect he won’t. After hearing him tell an undoubtedly hard-working medical student that his future salary was the only thing in the way of solving the problems with health care, I certainly don’t hope he will be.
The others aren’t much better. Geert Wilders, known for getting along particularly well with the rest of world, is posed in front of the Dutch flag, rather like Napoleon but with signature blond hairdo. The Socialist Party has limited itself to a large tomato on a white background, no text. I know the tomato is their logo, and perhaps they haven’t bothered with the text because they feel so assured of winning. All fear a government with this little creativity. In fact, the Pirate Party’s “Don’t believe a poster, inform yourself” seems to be the only sensible statement there, but unfortunately my views don’t quite line up with theirs.
In a glum mood now, I started on the trip back, which takes me home through the fields and rivers over roads where cars don’t come. Suddenly, I saw a large bird swoop overhead, perfectly white but for the black bars that flashed up every time it beat its wings. A stork! As I stopped to watch, I noticed another one take off from the water side and join its mate in the air, whirling over the meadows in search of frogs or fish. Storks were on the brink of disappearing entirely in this part of the country as little as four or five years ago. You never used to see them; until a large campaign was undertaken to get them to settle in and breed again.
Storks seem to me to be highly optimistic birds; surely it’s no coincidence that the stork is the bird that supposedly delivers human babies to expecting mothers in popular myth. One could not hope for a more positive symbol in a country facing economic misery, in part caused by the fact that the population on average keeps getting older and there’s not nearly enough children being born to match the effects of this trend.
Maybe it’s my imagination taking a flying leap here, but a big poster saying “we brought your favourite bird back from the brink- we’ll save the country too” would earn my instant favour. In fact, I might even vote for the Stork party. I’m all for clean rivers, soaring birds and laughing babies. Who isn’t?
At the very least, it’d make a better poster than the socialists’ tomato or Wilder’s falcon, and give me one last hopeful straw to cling on to.