Dutch Pirates defect to intellectual right-wing party

This is just in: the full board of the Dutch Pirate Party defected to a brand-new intellectual extreme right-wing party in protest against their own fetish-model-turned-privacy-activist party leader. And no, I’m not making this up.

I still owe you a measured piece on last week’s opening of the parliamentary year, but this news is too good to pass up on.

The right wing

Geert Wilders and his PVV own the extreme right wing of Dutch politics, but there are always people who are on the extreme right but don’t want to serve under Wilders. Besides, Wilders is a lousy manager, and he lost three MPs in his 2014 meltdown.

Two of those founded a new party, VNL (Voor Nederland; For the Netherlands). I didn’t think they’d get into parliament with Wilders sucking the oxygen out of any hard right competitors, but their election of Jan Roos, shock-jock journalist and co-leader of the anti-Ukraine camp in last year’s referendum, seems to turn the electoral tide for them: they’re now at 1 or 2 seats in four out of five polls.

The anti-Ukraine camp had two leaders, however, the other one being high-brow intellectual Thierry Baudet. It now turns out Baudet also wants to go into politics, but does not want to serve under either Wilders or Roos. So he founded his own party, Forum for Democracy, and intends to run in the elections. Fat chance; one does not win right-wing voters’ hearts with Latin quotations.

Folklore, so far. This happens with disturbing regularity, and all parties involved (except for Wilders) will fail.

Pirates to the right

However, today’s move by the Pirate Party board is not a regular part of Dutch political folklore.

Back in June, the Pirates, sensing they might make the jump into parliament, elected Ancilla van der Leest party leader. She’s a former “fetish model” (did not know that existed, but then I’m not much into fetishes) and, more importantly, a privacy activitst. Although I’ve never heard of her, plenty people have, so her elevation seemed a canny move on the part of the Pirates, and factored into my estimate that they’d make it this time.

De Volkskrant gives some details (see also NOS): there have been tensions between Van der Leest, the majority of the party and two board members on the one hand, and the three others on the other, for quite a while. Van der Leest seems to want to run the campaign with her own set of advisors — a “coterie,” as one of the board members said. Translation: she doesn’t feel the board is up to running a national campaing and decided to take matters into her own hands. I can’t say if she’s right or wrong, but I do know hurt egos when I see them, and that fits the Pirate board members right now.

Two board members resigned earlier, and it was widely expected that the party members would depose the three remaining ones later today. They pre-empted that by announcing their defection to Baudet’s right-wing Forum for Democracy. Since the Pirates are generally placed on the left of the political spectrum this is widely considered a surprise move.

The results will be enhanced attention for both parties, which will help the Forum a little bit — just about enough, I’d say, to steal some votes from VNL so that both end at 0 seats and leave Wilders sole ruler on the right.

As to the Pirates, they have a potential shitstorm on their hands. Educated leftist people who considered voting for them will think twice now that the old party board has shown where their political heart lies.

On the other hand, Van der Leest is moving quickly to contain the damage, and her story is that the three board members had problems with the professionalisation a rapidly-growing party is bound to go through. That’s a nice way of putting it, and it shows Van der Leest may have more political acumen than her opponents.

The damage to the Pirates could be severe, but this affair could end well, too. No way of knowing for sure at this point.

Anyway, one more day full of surprises in Dutch politics. I pity the poor Americans and Brits who have to do without these fun small parties.

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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.

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