MP expelled from Dutch PM’s party puts governing coalition at risk

Second Chamber

The VVD expelled parliamentarian Wybren van Haga on Tuesday. According to party leader Klaas Dijkhoff, he cannot remain in the party now that he is again under fire over his activities as a property manager and landlord, NOS reports.

The question now is whether Van Haga will keep his parliamentary seat or give it back to the VVD. If he continues as a parliamentarian on his own title, the coalition of VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie will lose its one seat majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of parliament. That means that the government will need support from the opposition to get any of its plans passed through parliament, as Article 72 states that a tied vote on a proposal means that the legislation is not adopted. The Rutte III coalition already needs opposition support in the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, where it is six seats short of a majority.

On Monday Hart van Nederland reported that Van Haga had construction work carried out without a permit at a Haarlem monumental courtyard that he owns and rents out. A spokesperson for the municipality of Haarlem confirmed that the renovations was halted after it turned out that Van Haga did not have a permit. "That does not mean that the renovations were not allowed", the spokesperson said. "Only that no permit was requested."

Residents of the Haarlem courtyard told the TV show that after construction was halted, Van Haga ranted at them. "He was furious and wanted to know who had called the municipality."

Van Haga was previously also under fire for not following the lease rules as a property manager. He rented out at least eight buildings to more than two tenants without having a permit. In April last year the VVD integrity committee concluded that he did not do anything horribly wrong, but that he could not be active as an entrepreneur on such a large scale and be a member of parliament at the same time. His party offered him the choice to either give up his seat in parliament, or quit as an entrepreneur. Van Haga opted for the latter, but reports by Hart van Nederland suggest that the MP is till too involved with the properties that he owns and rents out. 

Van Haga called the VVD's decision to expel him "a great pity", speaking to NOS. "The calculations of the group is different from my own", he said to the broadcaster, emphasizing that he has been a VVD member for 38 years. Van Haga acknowledged that he had sent an email to a tenant, but denied that he violated any agreements. "The fundamental problem that underlies this, and that is in principle, is whether you as an entrepreneur can be a representative of the people." He is still thinking on whether or not he will keep his parliamentary seat. 

According to political reporter Fons Lambie, there are a few things that can happen if Van Haga decides to keep his parliamentary seat. "If Van Haga is going to keep his seat, the question is: how will he continue? If Van Haga stays an independent member of parliament that supports the government's policy, then there will be no problem for the coalition. If Van Haga acts as an opposition member or if he joins an opposition party, it can become a problem for the government. Not an acute problem, but with crucial votes it can make a difference", he said to RTL Nieuws.

"Behind the scenes, insiders say that it is painful that the VVD loses the majority, but the government parties are not immediately in crisis", Lambie continued. "There are also enough opposition parties that are constructively cooperating with the cabinet. The cabinet had to cooperate with them in any case, due to the lack of the majority in the Senate."