Who are the silent forces of Dutch politics?

Who are the silent forces of Dutch politics?
Who are the silent forces of Dutch politics?

“We all know the 150 Members of the House of Representatives,” says Thelosen, “and we know that they are by no means silent. But there are a lot of people working behind the scenes, such as policy officers, secretaries, spokespersons and support staff. We do not see these people in the House of Representatives, but they are there.”

‘Support and refuge’

After asking questions in Parliament, Thelosen discovered that faction leaders cannot do without their silent forces. For example, Jimmy Dijk (SP) says that Karen from the secretariat does many things in silence that many people take for granted. According to Esther Ouwehand (PvdD), as a Member of Parliament and faction leader you cannot do without your team of policy staff. She mentions Elleke Draaisma, the first PvdD policy officer, who, according to her, was the driving force behind a major change in the law in 2021. According to party leader Dassen, Volt has the loudest silent force in the House of Representatives. And that is Sandra Witte. “She is your support and support in everything, (…) Sandra is the one you need to be.”

El Yassini served in the Chamber for the VVD from 2017 to 2023. He also had several silent forces in his team, who, according to him, were indispensable: “Without them we cannot do our work in the House of Representatives at all.” According to El Yassini, his silent powers have often ‘saved his ass’.

Consciously in the background

The silence and invisibility of the people behind the scenes is precisely their strength, says Thelosen. “I found this out when I was preparing this conversation. The majority said they had no need for a position in the spotlight.” El Yassini also finds this restraint characteristic. “What I notice is that the silent forces consciously choose this. If they wanted to be in the foreground, they would have registered for the list of candidates.”

From behind the scenes to the main stage

But sometimes it happens that the people behind the scenes also end up on the main stage. A well-known example is Peter Kwint of the SP. He started as information officer for the faction and later became a Member of Parliament. According to El Yassini, this is the exception rather than the rule, but sometimes he also sees the drive and ambition in the eyes of people behind the scenes.

“That’s nice to see, you try to nourish that and let it blossom. Nothing is more beautiful than handing over the baton to someone you know can do it.” The former MP has also experienced it himself. For example, Mariam Al-Saqaff was first his personal assistant, now she is a municipal councilor in Utrecht. “She never wanted to go into politics. I really spent three years trying to convince her that politics was really something for her. Yet she took that step, which I thought was very nice to see: from a silent force to a councilor in the municipality of Utrecht. I am really proud of that.” El Yassini sees her as his protégé.

It is not usual for silent forces to be mentioned in Parliament, let alone thanked. Yet that happened two weeks ago, in the plenary hall of the House of Representatives, Thelosen knows. Chamber chairman Martin Bosma (PVV) congratulated CDA employee Dorrit Klein on her anniversary: ​​she has been working for the CDA faction for 47 years. A special event, says Thelosen. “Silent forces get credit internally, but we never actually see that in the plenary hall, live in the debate.” Thelosen spoke to Klein about how she felt about that. “She was very honored and a type who does not like to be in the foreground.” What makes working in politics fun, according to Klein, is the unpredictability. “You don’t actually know at the beginning of the week how it will go. As a personal employee you are the anchor of the MP.”

Tearing and shaving

As an expert in the field, Klein has experienced political history firsthand. She can still remember the years of CDA faction leader Ruud Lubbers. “Early in the morning he came driving in an old car, you could still park in the Binnenhof back then. He then stood in his room shaving and he had to repeat that a few times a day, because I think he had man a huge beard growth.”

Duty of confidentiality

Through their work, silent forces have a lot of knowledge and information available about the politician they work for. But what if they leave school? El Yassini, joking: “I think I’ll emigrate then haha.” Employees have a duty of confidentiality. “Politicians live and work under a magnifying glass. This means that you have to have a team that you can really count on. Because the outside world is already unsafe enough for many politicians, you want to be able to trust that your employees will be there for you inside. ”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: silent forces Dutch politics


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