Yesterday Thierry Baudet resigned as FvD party leader. What’s going on, why did he resign, and what will happen now?
(See this profile if you need a quick reminder of what FvD is.)
Recently it was revealed for the second time that some members of the FvD youth organisation have been exchanging anti-semitic and nazi apps, such as that Jews have an international paedophile network and more such delightful opinions. Something similar happened before, and the youth organisation promised to do better. It didn’t.
Freek Jansen, leader of the youth organisation, is a close ally of Baudet, and they seem to share an extreme right ideology that goes way too far for most party members. Recently Jansen had been allotted the seventh place on the FvD list for the March 2021 elections. Although, given the lousy recent polls, it's questionable if he would actually make it into parliament, the mere idea seems to have been too much for many other senior party members.
Last weekend several other important members, including number two Theo Hiddema and the FvD leaders in the Amsterdam city council and European Parliament, decided that enough was enough and Jansen had to go. The problem was that Baudet was so invested in Jansen that he could not let go of him. Then the opposition demanded, and got, an emergency meeting of the party board, of which Baudet was chairman.
Things went very fast then. Yesterday evening Baudet announced he would step down as party leader and would not be the number 1 on the list for the elections, although he would remain in parliament until the elections and was still interested in the last place on the list (a phenomenon I never described in detail). Initially it appeared he would stay on as party chairman, and thus continue to wield considerable power, but today it became clear that he was resigning as chair as well. Later today Hiddema announced he would leave parliament effective immediately and would not be available for a next term.
Fun fact: Hiddema has to be succeeded by the next person on the original FvD list, but she has already left the party and just confirmed she is not interested. The fourth on the list was Otten, exactly the person whose failed revolt triggered the party’s current woes. So Otten could return to parliament. But if he does so he has to give up his Senate seat, which could go to ... Hiddema! (It should be added that one of the FvD's central tenets was that the 'job carrousel' in Dutch politics must stop.)
That’s where we stand right now: the opposition appears to have won, and Baudet is gone. The FvD can now pick up the pieces — if any pieces remain to be picked up.
The FvD has been in trouble for a while. I already wrote about the problems with Otten back in Spring, and the resulting hilarious splits and mergers on the fringe of Dutch politics. Since that time the FvD has appeared unified, but apparently people got irritated by Baudet, and especially by his policy of Corona denial.
Even Wilders saw that he had to bow to reality and support the government’s Corona policies to a certain extent (though complaining that measures being either not strict enough or too strict was allowed). In Spring Baudet followed largely the same line, but that changed in Fall. It seems Baudet (and Jansen and other loyalists with him) decided that a firm denial of Corona, and thus of all extraordinary measures such as lockdowns, was the way forward. This turned out to be a bad choice electorally.
Already damaged by the Otten affair the FvD’s pro-Corona stance made it lose even more seats in the polls — right now it’s at about 7 seats, but that’s without measuring the fall-out of this last round of trouble.
Thus Baudet made serious mistakes, and people became unhappy with his leadership. This, more than any nazi apps, is likely the root cause of the revolt. Annabel Nanninga in particular, the FvD leader in Amsterdam, proved herself to be fairly anti-semite a while back, but she’s still one of the leaders of the revolt.
It’s clear that the big winner here is Wilders. The cunning plan was to let Wilders and FvD compete for the same votes, so that both would end up with, I don’t know, about 12 seats. It’s clear that that is not going to happen; Wilders remains at his current 20 seats or a bit above, while the FvD is going to go down considerably, losing at least 6 of its current 7 polled seats. So Wilders has won the struggle on the extreme right without ever doing anything but wait. He’s a canny one, Wilders.
What will Baudet do next? It’s unlikely that the FvD in its current form will want him on the list at all. Baudet founding a new party is certainly a possibility, and he might even draw some of the remaining FvD voters and win a seat. Say what you want, Baudet has charisma.
Who will become the next FvD leader? The only official candidate so far is Joost Eerdmans, who made a name for himself in local Rotterdam politics, where he headed LR, the only remaining shard of Pim Fortuyn’s political empire (see here for some details). But he never acted on the national stage, and it’s unclear if he has the charisma to pull off an election victory — however you define 'victory' right now for the FvD.
Will Otten return to the FvD? His original reason for splitting off was that he thought Baudet was too radical. Since the rest of the party now agrees with him, and since his PvdT experiment has failed (I owe you an update on that as well) he might return. Electorally that doesn’t really matter a lot, but he is supposed to have access to deep pockets, which never hurts. Then again, he’ll want something in return. The party leadership? He has no charisma to speak of.
No doubt more FvD politicians than just Eerdmans and possibly Otten will aim for the top job, and we can look forward to a new round of infighting that will damage the party even more. Right now the correct question is whether it will win even a single seat in March.
<— Party profiles — VVD | FvD news; 26/11 —>
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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