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Present Day Lobby Efforts: 'Silent Lobby' Becoming Less Successful

Arco Timmermans, Professor by special appointment Public Affairs, discusses the lobby that is just getting under way and is aimed at the political parties' manifestos for the upcoming election in March 2021.

The elections for the Dutch Parliament (Tweede Kamer) will be held in March next year and most political players are already busy preparing for it. Political parties are looking more and more towards the public debate for ideas. Lobbying is no longer something that only takes place behind closed doors at big companies. That is just part of the picture. The talk-show table has already become a more important location for lobbying than the old-fashioned and informal meet-ups in Parliament's hallways and corridors. A clear example is the nursing care proposal that the minister withdrew during a broadcast of the Dutch talk-show programme Jinek.

Increased Social Relevance

Lobbying often happens behind closed doors, but that is not always the case. When a certain subject is added to a political party manifesto, you should be able to explain that decision afterwards. Some subjects have the 'goodwill factor' but it is an art to introduce subjects that hail from your own special interests as if they have been thought up by the political party themselves. There is also an increasing number of new organisations that have more influence because they garner more sympathy than lobbyists that are simply looking after their own interests. Which is why social relevance is becoming more and more important. Interest groups are increasingly joining forces to demand attention for one larger social issue.

Timmermans explains that the lobby is no longer being dominated by large companies and organisations but that citizens are increasingly tabling issues that have social relevance. Some parties write very elaborate manifestos, these parties have more room to address issues that have been brought up by society. New parties quite often do not have enough room in their strategy to present a very elaborate manifesto.

'Silent Lobby' Becoming Less Successful

'If you're a large company and you limit your efforts to a 'silent lobby', you are less likely to succeed. If your lobby efforts are discovered by the media this could even backfire.' During the elections most citizens in Netherlands make use of so-called 'stemwijzers', online election surveys based on issues taken from the manifestos of all the participating political parties. As a result, these surveys also pay attention to issues that have been added as a result of lobby efforts.

Modern-day lobby requires patience, you need to try and state your case in as many different places and moments in time as possible. When lobbying is done in an honest manner, it contributes to the democracy because of the way it addresses socially relevant issues that have been brought up by initiatives from within society.

You can read the full article (in Dutch) on the EenVandaag website or listen to the Dutch EenVandaag broadcast of 13 February 2020, starting from minute 47.

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