Hilarious small-party mergers

Today, news broke that was so unexpected that I had to write about it: split-offs from populist FvD, angry-pensionado 50Plus, and animal-rights PvdD consolideated into a new small party. (Source)

We need a bit of recent history to properly understand what’s going on.

FvD

For the past few years. the Netherlands did not have one but two populist parties. In addition to Geert Wilders’s PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid; Freedom Party) we have Thierry Baudet’s FvD (Forum voor Democratie; Forum for Democrary). There are a few slight differences between the two, such as Wilders concentrates on peripheral small-town and rural voters, while Baudet’s party is more into central, urban, upper-middle-class voters, and FvD being a proper party with some sort of internal party democracy while the PVV still isn’t — but essentially they are from the same populist cloth, with charismatic leaders who brook little opposition.

FvD surprised everyone by winning 2 out of 150 seats in the 2017 elections, and has been on an upswing ever since, eating into the PVV’s base (and, to a lesser extent, the VVD’s). Its high-water mark came in the March 2019 provincial elections, where it (barely) became the largest party, eking out a victory even over prime minister Rutte’s moderate right-wing VVD. Since the provincial States elect the national Senate, the FvD also became the largest party in the Senate, with 12 out of 75 seats. The FvD Senate fraction was to be led by party organiser Henk Otten. Second-place VVD also got 12 senators, but with slightly fewer votes.

Mere weeks after this astounding victory Otten gave an interview to NRC where he deplored party leader Baudet’s penchant for racist, anti-feminist utterances, as well as his interest in outright neo-nazi groups. This interview led to an internal party struggle, the conclusion of which saw Otten plus two other senators leaving FvD and forming Group Otten. Thus, the FvD was relegated to second-largest fraction.

The came the May 2019 European elections. Partly due to the Otten row, FvD dropped dramatically in number of votes, eventually winning only 3 out of the 26 Dutch seats, which made them the fourth party. Despite the FvD conclusively defeating Wilders’s PVV (0 out of 26), this was considered a disappointment.

Then something funny occurred that shows the peculiarities of the Dutch party list system. The EU had decided that, if Brexit occurred, 27 of the 73 British seats in European Parliament would be re-divided among the other countries, and that the Netherlands would get 3. These 3 seats would be allocated according to the election result, which would mean 1 seat each for FvD, VVD, and PVV.

Brexit actually occurred on 31st of January, so the FvD could instate a fourth MEP. In the Dutch system that means the fourth candidate on the FvD list gets the seat. The problem was that Dorien Rookmaker, the lady occupying this fourth place, was one of the two senators who followed Otten, and thus Group Otten got a European seat as well. This was good for the FvD senate fraction, which was now filled with the thirteenth candidate on the original FvD senate list, who followed Baudet. Thus the FvD went from 9 back to 10 seats.

So that was the situation in the FvD. Let’s move on to animal-rights PvdD.

PvdD

Within the PvdD there was also a power struggle going on. In the 2017 elections the animal-right party won 5 out of 150 seats, the fifth seat going to Femke Merel van Kooten. In 2019 she complained that the PvdD hardly ever talked about non-animal-rights topics and she split off to become an independent.

Here, too, the underlying reasons appear to be the strict discipline that party leader Thieme imposes. This row was not fought out in the open, as the FvD and 50Plus ones were, so the details are a bit murkier.

In any case, a few months later Van Kooten surprisingly joined the 50Plus fraction, bringing it from 4 to 5 seats.

50Plus

That brings us to angry-pensionado 50Plus, that won 4 out of 150 seats in the 2017 elections. It mainly exists to protect the pension system, which needs to be overhauled due to the increase in 65+ citizens with the baby-boom generation getting older. 50Plus was led by Henk Krol, who, despite some missteps in the 2017 campaign, appears to have enough charisma to keep himself in the spotlights. He is openly gay, and, as the editor of the Gay Krant, was one of the driving forces behind the legalisation of gay marriage. Thus he’s been in the public eye for a while.

50Plus is more than just Krol, though. Behind him are a whole slew of elderly former medium-importance politicians from especially PvdA and VVD, who are hoping for a stay of execution before they’re forced to depart from politics. Problem is: these politicians know how to cause a row and profit from it.

The row concentrates on former VVD politician Dales, who joined 50Plus and became party chairman. Krol decided, apparently alone, that Dales would feature on the 50Plus list for the 2021 elections, which led to opposition from 50Plus founder and former PvdA politician Nagel, who still has a following within the party. He, along with most of the party, demanded that Dales step down as chairman, and after some complicated shenanigans they got their wish. However, then Krol announced he would also leave the party to found a new one, and he was followed by former PvdD MP Van Kooten. Thus the 50Plus fraction was left with only 3 seats.

PvdT

The last polls show Krol’s new party, the PvdT (Partij van de Toekomst; Party of the Future; silly name for an elderly party), winning one seat in the 2021 elections, while 50Plus slid down dramatically from 8 or 9 seats to 1 or 2. Thus the split has done a lot of damage to the elderly.

Today’s news is that Group Otten will merge into the PvdT. Krol will become party leader and first candidate on the list, while Otten will become chairman and organiser. Otten released a lot of blah about him bringing the PvdT forward thanks to his organising qualities. Now it seems that he is not the worst organiser out there, but in the 2017 elections he worked with Baudet as a charismatic party leader, and charisma always helps in politics. Krol also has some charisma, but he’s damaged by the internal rows in 50Plus. On the other hand, him winning one seat in the polls by himself shows he has a following.

In any case, the PvdT now suddenly gets two senators (Otten and one friend) in addition to its two Second Chamber seats (Krol and Van Kooten) and one European seat (Rookmaker). It is, apparently, serious about becoming a force on the right-wing-populist-pension-defending-animal-rights-green flank of Dutch politics.

The question is whether such a flank exists.

Also, the PvdT-new-style was created wholly due to egos and personal clashes. Will the party be free of those in the future?

<— European elections | Again small parties —>

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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