By Lauke Stoel
In our class, we established that history and therefore time matters and that path-dependence accounts for a large part of this. However, we can scrutinise this conception further by looking not only at how time matters, but also at the influence of the sequence in which events take place. In his second chapter, Pierson argues that there are two main themes that feature path-dependent sequences of development, namely filling up political space and developing social capacities. The case of the sudden success of a small, single-issue party in the Netherlands called the 50PLUS party is one that can be explained by combining aspects of both themes.
The Netherlands is coping with severe ageing of the population. With the proportion of elderly growing, it has become increasingly hard to provide for them and many find themselves in a particularly disadvantaged position. This process has been slowly but surely developing over the past couple of decades and has created a certain ideational social capacity within the voting population that remained unexploited.
The 50PLUS party originates from the ‘OokU’ founded in 2009 and changed its name in 2011. Until 2012, 50PLUS did not run for positions, but the first parliamentary elections after their change of name, which directly addresses this disadvantaged part of the population with their single-issue approach, they swooped in and now in fact occupy two seats in the First Chamber, one in the Second Chamber and are represented in all-but-one Province. Naturally, other parties had policies concerning the elderly as well, but because of the first-mover advantage the 50PLUS party made use of, alterations in other party’s elderly policies hardly affects the rank and file of 50PLUS. The sudden success of 50PLUS is thus a combination of the use of developed social capacity and the well-timed filling of political space.