Lower House set to elect leader; Tough days expected
The lower house of Dutch parliament is electing a new president on Wednesday. And with four candidates with controversy clinging to almost all of them, it seems to be building up to be a tense election.
The four candidates are Khadija Arib of the PvdA, Madeleine van Toorenburg of the CDA, Ton Elias of the VVD and Martin Bosma of the PVV. Political journalists from NRC and RTL Nieuws think it could be anyone's game. Arib and Van Toorenburg put themselves forward as candidates shortly after former Tweede Kamer President Annoucka van Miltenburg's resignation amid the affair around the so-called Teeven deal. The other two candidates announced themselves on Monday, about 30 minutes apart.
PvdA candidate Arib seems to have little chance, mostly due to her Moroccan background and double nationality, according to political commentator Frits Wester in RTL. This makes her unacceptable for anti-Islam party PVV. Arib was also a candidate for the post in 2012. Back then the PVV commented "a Moroccan as kamer President, that can't be" because she is "not loyal to the Netherlands". Other parties do not share this view officially, but according to NRC recent weeks heard much anonymous grumbling about her "Moroccan accent", including the VVD telling the PvdA that they would have supported anyone else put forward by their coalition partner.
Funnily enough, NRC thinks that the PVV may actually have given Arib a better chance by putting their own candidate forward. With three right-wing candidates, the right wing of the Kamer may be divided. Arib is the only left wing candidate to choose from.
The PVV candidate is Martin Bosma. He seems like an excellent candidate - worked as vice-Kamer president for six years, so he has experience and he has a reputation of being well able to chair the debates - except for his party. Almost no one wants to work with the PVV. According to NRC, most of the Kamer especially does not want the PVV, with the party's harsh views on Muslims and Moroccans and leader Geert Wilders' statements about the "fraudulent parliament" - being the face of parliament during the Netherlands' term as president of the European Union.
At the same time a few parties are aware that by rejecting Bosma as president, they're giving Wilders a nice little gift - Wilders can use such a rejection to say: See? We put an excellent candidate forward, but the establishment just threw him out.
VVD'er Ton Elias is running for Kamer president on his own, without the support of his faction. After the commotion surrounding Van Miltenburg's resignation and the whole Fred Teeven affair, the party did not want to nominate its own candidate. In his application he asked his fellow parliamentarians to leave behind "political considerations" when making their choice. Elias is also not very well loved in the Kamer, according to NRC.
The final candidate Madeleine van Toorenburg, CDA, is the only one not to come with baggage attached. But unfortunately she also comes with very little experience attached. Except for leading the parliamentary committee investigating the Fyra debacle, she was not at all involved in the daily management of the Tweede Kamer and does not have experience in leading debates, one of the main functions of the Kamer president.