Searchlight - January 2011
The new Dutch government took office in October, but not before the Christian Democrat Gerd Leers, the former mayor of Maastricht and a critic of far-right populist Geert Wilders, had to bow for him in a meeting before taking up his post in the immigration and asylum ministry, a department that Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) regards as most important. In a bid to please Wilders, Leers then tried to extradite Iraqi refugees at the beginning of November, but the European Court of Human Rights has scotched the move with a ruling that extradition is prohibited where there is fear of a threat to life.
Wilders hanging over the political situation like a dark cloud, the government's first parliamentary debate in government was given especial attention when it came to light that one of the government's secretaries of state, the right-wing liberal VVD member Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten-Hyllner has both a Dutch and a Swedish passport.
In 2007, Wilders filed a no confidence motion against the then new government secretaries Nebahat Albayrak and Ahmed Aboutaleb, defending his stance by saying that he also would have protested if the issue was about a Swedish passport. But where Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten-Hyllner was concerned, Wilders did not manage to file any such motion.
A month later the PVV made a U-turn on European regulation. Having always voted against "European interference", the party is now following coalition the line of the minority government. A further somersault occurred when the PVV suddenly appeared to favour buying military jets.
These gymnastics did not get the attention they deserved being almost wiped out by dramatic revelations about the criminal records and past misconduct of several PVV MPs came to light. The party's spokesman for safety and neighbourhoods, Eric Lucassen, for example, was shown to have terrorised his own neighbours between 2006 and 2009 in Haarlem. The former army sergeant, a huge bald tattooed former bodyguard, it emerged, had been twice arrested for intimidating, insulting and attacking his mainly elderly neighbors. Lucassen also collected a conviction in 2002 for having sexual relations with subordinates when he was an army instructor.
Wilders, not normally shy about calling for strong measures, merely talked with Lucassen for two days but the latter refused to leave his seat. Wilders, bearing the coalition's one-seat majority in mind, kept Lucassen in his party but stripped him of his post.
The scandals are far from over, however. PVV MP James Sharpe was forced to quit his seat when it was revealed that the company he worked for had been heavily fined for misleading consumers. At first, Sharpe denied these misdemeanours but the verdicts inevitably turned up.
The list goes on: the PVV's spokesman for, among other things, consumer affairs, Jhim van Bemmel failed to tell Wilders that he had been convicted for fraud while it emerged that Marcial Hernandez, a former commando and, since June 2010, a PVV MP had not only been fined for speeding, but had also been arrested, in September 2010, in a bar in The Hague where he was accused of violence.
One of the PVV's key parliamentarians, Hero Brinkman, a former Amsterdam police officer, was accused of violence against a bartender and against a builder near his house last year but was the only parliamentarian to refuse to cooperate with a media investigation on politicians' brushes with the law. Soon afterwards, it was shown why: when Brinkman was still a police officer he had dodged a breath test by dimming his lights and speeding away. He was later arrested at home, drinking.
Richard de Mos, a PVV councillor in The Hague and MP, also found himself in hot water, being caught out falsely claiming to have been a school director and stupidly defending himself by saying that he had completed all the education to be one.
Finally, and if that was not enough, internal documents on democracy in the PVV found themselves into the media. Brinkman, it appears, had campaigned for opening up the party to members, having congresses, a more open media-exposure by individual parliamentarians not controlled by Wilders or his close aides, and establishing a youth movement. He also criticised Wilders' focus on combating Islam.
PVV spin-doctor, Martin Bosma, however, was vehemently opposed to such democratic procedures stating that "having members costs too much time and energy" and that he is afraid that members would "vote that Islam is a religion and that it is no problem to have two passports". All Brinkman's proposals, except the one for youth activities, were voted down at a meeting of the PVV's parliamentary group fraction.
Despite the turbulence engulfing his closest allies, Wilders still managed to insult Muslims again when, just after the suspension of his trial, he stated in parliament that all Muslims hide their true intentions. And, later, in an interview with Der Spiegel Wilders stated that the Koran contains more anti-Jewish statements than Hitler's Mein Kampf.
Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net in Amsterdam