Dutch security services must screen new local politicians: Professor

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Local factions of political parties make almost no effort to screen new candidates before letting them run in municipal elections, according to criminology professor Emile Kolthoff. He therefore calls for security service AIVD or a a special police service to take over this duty and properly screen candidate municipal councilors before they are sworn into the council, Trouw reports.

Kolthoff, professor at the Avans University of Applied Sciences in 's-Hertogenbosch, and the national center for crime prevention and security CCV together set up a special expert team to help municipalities prevent the undermining of local politics. In the run-up to the municipal elections next month, he noticed in his research that local level political parties almost never carefully screen their candidates for criminal contacts, even if the national faction of the party urge them to do so.

"In the country we notice that there is 0.0 screening. And this in a period when the number of attempts to influence politics will increase", the professor said to Trouw. "Certainly in Noord-Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland, where the police are increasing the pressure on organized crime, criminals are actively seeking opportunities to influence that struggle."

According to Kolthoff, criminal organizations often put forward candidates that don't have bad behavior on their record, but are under the criminal organization's influence. These councilors won't necessarily try to influence the council, but from their seat can identify which councilors work on which files and whether they are vulnerable to blackmail or threats. Once such a person is democratically elected, the mayor, King's Commissioner and even the Minister of Home Affairs can do nothing about it, Kolthoff said. It is up to the political parties themselves to make sure such undesirable members don't get in.

The Netherlands needs new measures and legislation to prevent political undermining, because this will only happen more and more, Kolthoff said. He suggests independent and in-depth screening by the AIVD or the police's Security, Integrity, Complaints department. Kolthoff also calls for a provision to be added to the Municipalities Act, so that city councilors who are convicted of a criminal offense during their term can immediately be removed from office. 

A recent study by the Ministry of Justice and Security revealed that a quarter of Dutch mayors have been threatened by criminals at least once. 

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