Populist FvD surprised by senators' departure; "Not damaging", party leader says

Populist party FvD was surprised by the news that two of its Senators - Jeroen de Vries and Dorien Rookmaker - are leaving the party to form a new party with recently expelled FvD member Henk Otten. FvD leader Thierry Baudet and other high-ups in the party heard about it in the newspapers.  "It is unfortunate that this is how it is and not fun of course, but I think the damage is not so bad for us", Baudet said in a first reaction to NRC.

The Telegraaf reported that Otten, who was expelled from the FvD three weeks ago for "a suspected attempt to fraud with government subsidy", was meeting with De Vries and Rookmaker to discuss their new party. Otten confirmed this to the newspaper and said that they already have a global party program. According to Otten, De Vries and Rookmaker, like himself, do not agree with the direction the FvD is going. If the two Senators also leave the FvD, the party's number of Senate seats is down by a quarter since the Provincial States elections - from 12 to nine. 

Otten told NOS on Monday morning that many FvD members are dissatisfied with the direction Baudet is taking the party. "That started on election night on 20 March, with the boreal speech. A lot of people were shocked by it. It is going in a direction we do not want to stand behind." He therefore expects that more FvD members will join his party instead. 

Baudet thinks that there will be limited political consequences for his party, he said to NRC. "Of course I would have preferred a larger group in the Senate, but I don't see that we now suddenly can no longer stop things that we could have stopped before this. In the current constellation, the government is more inclined towards support from the PvdA and GroenLinks, and not from us. Seen in this light, I think the damage is not that bad for us." According to him, the interim loss of seats is "not unique". "This is often the case with starting political parties."

Baudet also denied that there is a struggle over the direction the party is taking, like Otten said. "There is room for different views within our party", he said to the newspaper. According to him, other FvD members like Senate faction leader Paul Cliteur, Senator Annabel Nanninga, and MEP Derk Jan Eppink think "really differently" on some substantive points than he does. "That has never been a problem", he said. "The conflict with Otten is just about money, not about ideas."

"We have taken note of a report in De Telegraaf about a possible split-off", Paul Cliteur, leader of the FvD in the Senate, said to RTL Nieuws. "No one has yet reported to the political group and/or party to confirm the content of this report."

The party gave a similar statement to NOS. "The FvD party in the Senate is preparing for the new parliamentary year. That will be without former Senator Otten. FvD has taken note of a report in De Telegraaf about a possible split-off of three members from the group. However, no one has yet reported to the political group and/or party management to confirm the content of this report. If that happens, we assume that we can also work with the new Otten Group and wish the new group success in realizing their political program."

The Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, reported on Monday that Otten will continue in the Senate as the "Otten-faction", but did not say anything about other members. Baudet told NRC that he does not have the impression that more FvD members will follow Otten to his new party. "I received no signals of that. But yes: a few weeks ago, Jeroen de Vries also informed us that he was 100% behind the board. I would like to call on people who have doubts about their future at the party to just talk to me."