The Dutch nine-to-twelve-party system is sometimes hard to understand for foreigners; especially when the small parties come into play. Therefore I’m running a mini-series that treats all eleven parties that stand a decent chance of getting seats in the upcoming elections. We’ll go from largest to smallest.
Today we’ll close off with ToN.
Whatever else the 2010 elections may bring, at least we’ll get the satisfaction of finally being rid of Rita Verdonk.
Verdonk, like Wilders, started in the VVD, left that party, and founded her own on anti-Islamic principles. Unlike Wilders, though, Verdonk is a lousy organiser, cannot play the press for beans, has donors who are either untrustworthy or argue with her, and ran for about 50 councils with hastily-cobbled-together lists with candidates who will turn out to be absent, venal, untrustworthy, rude, given to splits, stupid, or any combination of those traits, and who will start to give the party serious PR headaches in another week or three.
In other words, ToN is a classic extreme-right party in the line of Janmaat in the eigthies or the LPF after Fortuyn’s death. Since Verdonk has a highly skilled and organised competitor, she is toast.
Verdonk (then VVD) was minister for Immigration and Integration in Balkenende II (2003-2006), and she was a right-winger who time and again struck fear into the hearts of anyone seeking entrance — at least, that’s what she wanted to project. She was very popular in those days.
After the disastrous VVD defeat in the 2006 local elections, party leader Van Aartsen resigned, and the party democratically called for internal elections to fill his place. Verdonk applied, and soon the election turned into a nail-biter of a race between her, meanwhile totally on the right, and centrist candidate Rutte.
In the end Rutte won 51-46, but not before the VVD had started a steady rise in the polls. With some justice, Verdonk could claim that that was because of her right-wing profile, and a sharp debate on the course of the party was started.
Then it turned out that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, VVD MP of Somalian descent and firm critic of Islam, had entered the country while giving a false name. Verdonk investigated the matter and concluded quickly that because of her lie Hirsi Ali had formally never become a Dutch citizen. (It should be added that in practice both ladies were vying for the post of VVD anti-Islam spokeswoman.)
Confusion ensued, Verdonk was accused of hastiness (a supreme sin in the Dutch political system), Hirsi Ali resigned, and parliament asked for clarification. Balkenende put Verdonk under scrutiny, and a motion of distrust was narrowly rejected by parliament. (After such a motion Verdonk would have had to resign, and Balkenende would be held responsible for the situation.)
Still, D66 resigned from government when the motion of distrust was defeated, and Balkenende II fell. Verdonk remained in her position for the moment. Still, she’d lost the party leadership from Rutte.
Verdonk had been assigned second place on the VVD party list for the elections, because she had clearly been nearly as popular as Rutte. When the elections came, it turned out that Verdonk had actually received more votes than party leader Rutte, about 620,000 against 555,000. This was a first in Dutch political history. Never before had a party leader received less votes than one of the lower-placed candidates.
Since she’d gathered more votes than Rutte, she wanted a committee for the evaluation of that score. When former right-wing party leaders Wiegel and Bolkestein announced their interest, it became clear that Verdonk wanted to become party leader after all, election score in hand. The VVD fraction in parliament made it known that they had no interest in reopening the leadership question, though.
The newly-installed parliament, now with a left-wing majority if one counts the CU and PvdD, asked government to postpone the deportation of those foreigners who might conceivably fall under a “general amnesty” that was going to be discussed during coalition negotiations.
Verdonk refused, supported by Balkenende, and only agreed to a temporary suspension. When a new motion was accepted to turn this into a permanent suspension, Verdonk again refused to execute the motion, and a motion of distrust was accepted. The next day, Balkenende turned out to have given over Immigration to Hirsch Ballin (CDA), and Verdonk was now minister of Integration only. Thus Balkenende prevent a caretaker government from falling.
Then CDA+PvdA+CU was created, Balkenende IV came, and Verdonk disappeared into the opposition. She continued to criticise Rutte’s centrist tendencies, and called for the VVD to become a true right-wing party again, supported in the background by Wiegel, who still has the highest authority of all former VVD leaders.
Rutte became more and more annoyed, and repeatedly called upon Verdonk to behave and not play the solo artist. He even managed to get an internal party committee to propose all that. In the end Verdonk was untenable, and when she made one more snide remark about the left wing, she was removed from the fraction.
Like Wilders, she kept her seat and became known as Group Verdonk. She founded ToN as her vehicle. Since, unlike Wilders, she doesn’t have the faintest idea how to organise a party, she will go the way of the humpbacked whale come the next elections.
Recently it was discovered that in the seventies she’d been a member of pacifist-socialist witness party PSP for a while. Verdonk initially denied the charge, which made it only more painful when evidence was found.
She will have to stand up against Wilders, and this is Wilders’s race to lose. Unless he does something monumentally stupid like praying in a mosque Verdonk will not win enough voters over from the PVV to ToN.
Maurice de Hond (Peil.nl) still gives her one seat, but De Hond is frequently too generous for small parties.
None. If she would survive the elections, she’d only be called to reinforce a right-wing government that was pretty unstable to begin with. And if such reinforcement is still needed, the SGP holds more seats.
Bye bye, Rita.
<— Negotiations to watch — Almere | Know your coalitions — overview —>
This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.