Becoming Dutch has one big advantage. After 24 years without sufferage, on 12 September I get to vote in the national elections. I have to admit to a personal interest here – as my husband is on the electoral list for the Green Left. Unelectable at number 13, but all the same on the list.
The election campaigns have hardly begun and already there is mutiny in the air.
First Tofik Dibi single-handedly halved the Green Left’s chances of holding on to its ten seats in parliament by challenging GL leader Jolande Sap. Most parliamentary commentators wondered whether he had taken leave of his senses. His Bam Bam Bam campaign for a more radical party did not give him the desired result. Although he did touch on an important point – internal party democracy. Eventually he lost his leadership bid, inadvertently affording Sap, put forward by her popular predecessor Femke Halsema, a proper mandate.
Less than a couple of days after the party congress gave Dibi the tenth position on the electoral list he sought, and Dibi is off on a one-man campaign again. This time on a free-speech slate, calling for integration policies to be dumped and protection of groups to be scrapped. He is refering to anti-dicrimination law. It reminds me of Pim Fortuyn in the 2002 election, himself gay, he did not think there should be laws to protect certain vulnerable groups in society.
Freedom of speech
But if Dibi thought he was going to upstage Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders on free speech, he was wrong. Just a day later, Mr Wilders entered the election arena calling for a total withdrawal from Europe. Hardly a mention of his anti-Islam views or freedom of speech. But he only has one reason to get out of Europe, it’s so he can introduce all the other legislation that can’t be introduced due to international or European treaties. By the way, leaving Europe does not mean you just rip up your treaties.
While Wilders laid out his election plans to the press, muntinous Freedom Party MPs Marcial Hernandez and Wim Kortenoeven tweeted they were leaving the party. They say they heard the Freedom Party (PVV) manifesto for the first time at the press conference and complained that everything revolved around Wilders and a couple of trustees. The two hijacked the press conference straight after Wilders, having a captive audience that they never would have dared to call together as PVV MPs. They compared Wilders’ media policies to North Korean ones. An emotional Kortenoeven said Wilders controlled the party like a politbureau. The two called on others to join them. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. Leaving the party fold is tentamount to political suicide.
Wilders change of tack was accompanied by a change of tactics. This evening I watched the first television interview with the longest sitting MP, I can remember in a long time. Up to now, Wilders has been the most elusive policitian in The Hague, repeatedly turning down invitations to appear in talkshows or in interviews. His prefered medium is twitter – his personal press office. Now I can see why he avoids interviews as he fell into repetion several times and was not half as impressive as his sound bites. NOS interviewer Twan Huys cornered him on the departure of two MPs, after MP Hero Brinkman left earlier this year and on top of the fall of the one and only provincial coalition with the Freedom Party in Limburg after a visit by the Turkish president. All Wilders could think up was that the two had anticipated being low on the electoral list to be announced on Friday and felt frustrated.
He denied being dictatorial, ignoring ideas from fellow party members, says the parliamentary party had many meetings on the party manifesto. One thing is for certain he did not see this coming.
Henk and Ingrid electorate
A pattern is beginning to develop. Defectors all have the same story. Geert holds a tight party line. Anyone who does not tow the line, can expect a phone call from one of his cohorts. He has a couple of people he trusts – Martin Bosma and Fleur Agema. He apparently did not even consult his party when he pulled out of the so-called Catshuis talks on austerity measures to bring the budget deficit below three percent. Apparently the PVV MPs “cried on each other’s shoulders” when they realised they had been left out of the decision making.
The question is will his electorate desert him in his hour of need. Wilders has a tendency to play the “I’m so victimized” card. But there comes a point when he has lost touch with his imaginary Henk and Ingrid and he no longer says the things he thinks they want to hear.