The intention was for Member of Parliament Corinne Elimit (GroenLinks) to discuss on Thursday afternoon the repatriation of Dutch Syrian refugees. But she did not pay attention to her speech, and by that time she had visibly left the public hall.
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“She really likes the terrorists around her. We know that, right?” PVV MP Jeddi Markuszwer said of outgoing Minister Sigrid Kaag (Foreign Affairs, D66)
Several members of Parliament, including Elmet, have asked Acting President Martin Bosma, who is also a member of the Freedom Party, to say something about the matter. “I will not start this discussion unless the president intervenes,” Al-Mat said. But imprint did not. Shortly thereafter, Elmette prematurely left the debate – a move that rarely occurs in Dutch politics.
“What Markuszor said was very violent,” Elimit said the next day. “It was in the structure of his argument: he first described in detail what the terrorists had done, and then he enclosed the name of Sigrid Kag. The chief should have intervened, but he failed. Then you can sit like tame sheep in the chamber benches, but I thought the line had been crossed. Really here. I wasn’t into strategy or anything, I’m human, FirstThat’s how I reacted, too.”
The incident illustrates a dynamic that controls Geert Wilders’ party to the last detail, with which other factions have struggled. This is what Austrian political scientist Ruth Woodak calls the “permanent right-wing populist movement”. Léonie de Jonge, professor of political science at the University of Groningen, cites this theory. It says that PVV is a machine. Once you start moving, this machine can move forever.
The idea, says de Jong, is: create a scandal, that scandal makes a fuss, you play the victim and say you’ll be silenced, a scapegoat is found, and there’s material for another scandal. „Gert Wilders is one of the longest serving MPs, he knows how to play this game. The dynamics are always the same, although rhetorically they change slightly.”
De Jong says media attention is essential to Wilders. “There are no PVV members and therefore receives no support. FVD’s Thierry Baudet uses his social media channels to reach voters. Wilders may have a Twitter account, but not a way to make great movies. He builds on media attention, and he uses room Plenary to get that interest. With his long experience, he knows exactly how things work in the room. He’s an outsider to his constituents, but he’s also not like any other part of the system.” and out Research It turns out it works, says de Jong. “Attention to Wilders, positive or negative, always ensures that PVV increases in opinion polls.”
This tactic includes a An opponent who can act as the perfect enemy. Nothing motivates voters more than a common enemy, says Simon Otjes, a political science professor at Leiden. Wilders has found this in Sigrid Kaag since campaigning for the House of Representatives. “She’s the perfect opponent for Wilders,” says Otjes. She is not only the leader of the D66, the “Uncompromising World Party” which was already under the leadership of Alexander Bechtold loves to take on the PVV. “She is also connected, through her Palestinian husband, to Israel and Palestine, a favorite subject of Wilders.”
Last week, during a parliamentary debate on the formation, Wilders said Kaag “sympathizes with terrorists”. To this Kaag said, “I despise your words, and say it with all my might.”
KAG registered earlier this week opinion article at de Volkskrant That “the tune on the wings has become extreme.” Kaag, who also wrote that she was “extremely shocked and angry” at Wilders’ words, said this could put individual politicians and people at risk, so much so that she also used an “advertising reference to the polls”. Wilders then tweeted a link to the article, with just one word as a comment: “witch.”
Is PVV guilty of spurring debate in the House of Representatives? Scientists say this is complicated. Wilders has mainly benefited from the current change in parliamentary behaviour. Simon Otjes: “The year Pim Fortuyn was murdered, 2002, is the year of the break. Since then, the rhetoric in the room has become extremely fierce, and that has become part of the political culture. Things may have gotten worse since then, but these nuances are within that fault line.”
Henk te Velde, professor of Dutch history at Leiden University, says Wilders has shrewdly exploited the lack of clarity of standards in politics. Thirty years ago, Wilders was silenced in the House of Representatives. “But since the age of Fortuyn, the prevailing thought in The Hague has been that everything must be said. The voice of the people is more important than the dignity of the institution. Wilders is taking advantage of that.”
Although the debate has become more intense, also among other parties, Te Velde believes that journalism and politics too often revolve around the use of language and too little content. “Often there is an uproar about the statements, and then everyone wonders if what Wilders said was elegant. But if he had spoken like other MPs, he wouldn’t have booed his statements.”
Te Velde argues that the Dutch parliamentary tradition is more virtuous than that of most other Western democracies. According to him, the Netherlands is becoming more and more like Belgium, the United Kingdom or the United States, where the debates are more intense. Te Feldy: “Increasing tolerance of non-parliamentary language makes the protest against Wilders less powerful.”
Geert Wilders broke with the VVD in 2004 and founded the PVV party, which won nine seats in 2006. Since then, the party has been crossed frequently, but it has remained a surprisingly stable factor in the House of Representatives. Even when it got busy on the right, with parties like FVD and JA21 and divisions like Groep Otten and Groep Van Haga. PVV now has 17 seats. Simon Otges: “Wilders are really struggling with massive competition on the right. In the 2019 European and state elections, the FJP lost a significant number of voters to the FVD. Wilders had to tweak his story a little bit.”
In recent years, PVV has become somewhat more left-wing in the social and economic sphere, at least in rhetoric. In the past few years, the PVV party has attacked the Cabinet vigorously over the allowance issue, with tens of thousands of citizens being wrongly treated as fraudsters. Otges: “Interestingly, a large proportion of the victims were of immigrant background. In doing so, he deviated from the basic message of the Freedom Party.”
Léonie de Jonge sees less discussion about the objective positions of the PVV than about their actions in the Chamber of Deputies. The usual situation, she says, is that there is no fanfare around the Freedom Party’s electoral manifesto. The party demanded “primitive Dutch coexistence”, and these words appeared prominently. De Jong says that the fact that the FJP also wanted a “country without the veil” and wanted to ban education on an Islamic basis has received far less attention.
moderate alternative البديل
But she says it is precisely that philanthropic tone that poses a danger to Wilders. Thierry Baudt made statements so extreme that Wilders suddenly became the moderate alternative for many voters. This is not in Wilders’ interest, which means he can make more extreme statements.”
The traditional centrist parties often don’t know what to do with this. Simon Otjes says VVD started by imitating PVV. Left parties prefer to avoid debates about Islam or immigration. D66 is full of attack.”
Member of Parliament Corinne Elimet sees the House of Representatives “suffering from inappropriate behaviour”. “You don’t want to make a fuss by stressing it. But you can’t ignore it either. The biggest danger is that we end up shrugging our shoulders, and then we go back to normal. To me, the House is no different than a football field, where you say to yelling parents: Do you Can we make it a little more normal?”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on July 3, 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of July 3, 2021