Our political system is sick, tired and in urgent need of a redeeming injection

Our political system is sick, tired and in urgent need of a redeeming injection
Our political system is sick, tired and in urgent need of a redeeming injection

Does anyone ever think about Kees Sorgdrager? The legendary parliamentary reporter of The Hague Today and With a view to tomorrow died in 2017. He had a wonderful way of becoming angry about the lack of historical awareness among our Members of Parliament.

“Not without jealousy,” he wrote in 2002, “our MPs always tell you how much they like the British House of Commons, but their sense of the value of procedures is poor and accumulated experience is disrespectfully washed away under a banner that is waved on with a limp hand.” renewal” is written.’

Genderless party center

For Sorgdrager, the symbol of this misery was the tacky ‘conference center hall’ designed by Pi de Bruin, where the ‘historyless’ have held their plenary meetings since 1992 and which has been renovated since 2021.

‘How on earth is it possible, I think every time I enter this genderless party center, that they have left that delightful chocolate box, that old meeting room, that gem of parliamentary democracy that made the Netherlands architecturally unique all over the world and in which the House has existed since 1815? made history, that they discarded it.’

There is also another kind of historical concept that is also in disrepair in national politics: respect for democratic traditions. The House of Representatives elections of November 22 can serve as an illustration.

The biggest loser of those elections by far was Rob Jetten: under his leadership, D66 lost no fewer than 15 of its 24 seats. It was the largest loss of seats in the Democrats’ party history, even worse than the fiasco of Jan Terlouw in 1982 (minus 11 seats) and the resignation of Els Borst in 1998 (minus 10).

Both Terlouw and Borst immediately drew their conclusions and hung up the party leadership. Not so Jetten. In January, after Sigrid Kaag’s departure for the UN, he was even promoted to first deputy prime minister.

Why is Bontenbal still in his chair?

Under the leadership of Henri Bontenbal, the CDA also suffered a historic defeat on November 22. The party only had 5 House of Representatives seats left. Never before in our parliamentary history has a previously all-powerful political party sunk so low.

Elco Brinkman resigned in 1994 after the CDA had plummeted to 34 seats under his leadership. Jan Peter Balkenende immediately retired when he did not get further than 21 seats in 2010. But Bontenbal is still in his place, seems very pleased with himself as usual and no one in the CDA is sawing the legs of his chair.

By far the largest, but not prime minister

Geert Wilders’ PVV became the largest party on November 22. The lead over number two, the GroenLinks-PvdA combination led by Frans Timmermans, was no less than 12 seats. Such a big difference between the winner and the runner up has only happened twice in the past half century: in 2002 and in 2017. At the time, no one even thought of demanding that the partygoers Balkenende (2002) and Mark Rutte (2017) give up the premiership. That did happen with Wilders – unique.

Another oddity. On November 22, GroenLinks-PvdA, D66, SP, Denk, Party for the Animals and Volt signed together for only 47 House of Representatives seats. It was the biggest left-wing election debacle since 1922, when social democrats, liberal democrats and communists together got stuck on 27 of the (then) 100 seats in Parliament. The PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB together obtained 88 seats: more than enough to govern together, a wish that, according to various opinion surveys, is also shared by a large majority of their voters.

But we now know that a ‘normal’ parliamentary majority cabinet of PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB will not be created. At most an extra-parliamentary variant or a ‘program cabinet’. Even the chance of a Timmermans cabinet has not yet been lost.

A series of rarities

Party leaders who record record losses but simply remain in office, party leaders who become by far the largest but are not allowed in the Tower and parliamentary majorities that do not lead to parliamentary majority cabinets – it is a series of oddities that was unimaginable until recently.

Our political system is ‘sick and tired’, Hans van Mierlo analyzed in 1966. The situation has only gotten worse since then. A redeeming injection and then, in Van Mierlo’s words, ‘a new democracy’, including a district system – so that losing representatives will from now on be left behind – and a directly elected prime minister: how wonderful that would be.

Roelof Bouwman is a columnist and deputy editor-in-chief of Wynia’s Week. He writes about politics, history and media.

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The article is in Dutch

Tags: political system sick tired urgent redeeming injection


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