Four years ago, the Forum for Democracy became, to the surprise of many, the largest party in the provincial elections. There is not much left of this profit. Of the eligible politicians of the time, a small group still proudly calls themselves a member of the FvD, the rest remain.
Today the party is holding a conference, one of the topics of which will be the provincial elections in March 2023. The list of speakers now includes well-known names such as former Member of Parliament Paul Cleator and Director of the International Democracy Forum John Loughland.
“Thousands of members have already signed up,” party leader Baudi says in a conversation with NOS. “These are people who have been members for years, but we’re also attracting new groups like Yoga Right.” He has to laugh at the latter himself.
Bodt is not too concerned about the exodus of MPs and MPs in recent years. “I don’t know if it could be very different,” he says. “There is always a backtracking phase with a new party.”
More than a million Dutch
On March 20, 2019, more than a million Dutch people voted in favor of the Forum for Democracy. The party won 86 seats in the provincial council. There are now only 24 members of parliament left. The 25th seat is (temporarily) in the hands of an MP who has left the party, due to the maternity leave of MP FvD Kerseboom.
In the Senate elections in the same year, the FJP won twelve seats. Of these, only one is still held by a FvD member: Johan Dessing, also a member of the North Holland States.
“Robert Palgio and I worked hard on the list of candidates at that time,” recalls FvD co-founder Henk Otten. “We were looking for strong, reliable people with whom we wouldn’t get into a lot of trouble. We’ve been pretty successful, but almost all of them are now with JA21.” Otin and Balju were expelled from the party shortly after the election.
“Maybe they thought we were something we weren’t, and I wasn’t,” Baudi now says of politicians who left the party. “And they did something different from what I always wanted to do.”
Otten remains proud of the campaign and election results at the time. But on election night, he had the shock of his life. “This Northern speech by Bodt, I then walked out of the room with tears in my eyes. He messed it up.” Otten believes that people started to withdraw from that moment on.
It was indeed a veiled speech, with incomprehensible statements about the owl of Minerva and the North World. Subsequently, leaked anti-Semitic and racist messages from members of the youth wing turned many people away, also because Baudet did not want to distance himself from them.
And this year, the provocations followed one another even faster. From justifying Russia’s attack on Ukraine to conspiracy theories about creepers from the US and UK. Denials and weaknesses follow, which then turn out to be of little value, because Baudet then makes the same statements again.
We try to make life the way we think it should be.
The remaining FDF deputies noticeably feel Baudet’s support as they make one threatening statement after another about the courts or the overthrow of authoritarian regimes. These statements no longer lead to controversy.
In the introduction to the 2021 financial statements being discussed today, the party leader says of the thousandth split: “Since this last split, a new phase has begun for the party – in fact for the first time in our existence – we are not hampered by internal strife. It can build.”
Baudet is building a movement of like-minded people who have just as much aversion to today’s society as he does. He wants change through politics, but as long as it doesn’t happen “we try to make life the way we think it should be”.
The forum country, the schools, the glossy forum, and the digital forum world should form the “pillow” or “parallel society” in the community that Baudett already referred to in his victory speech in 2019. “We’re now launching an app for members at the conference,” Baudt says proudly. The intention is for members to find each other via the app for job postings, products and business contacts. “And to get a discount in a cafe or restaurant, for example.”
He has turned it into a cult that revolves around him.
Four years ago, says Otten, it was still a matter of changing policy. Now the finance-for-development agenda appears to focus on “undermining Dutch democracy”, as he puts it. “He has turned it into a cult that revolves around him.”
Baudet doesn’t think he’s turning away from society. “Everyone is free to join us and get a taste of what a forum feels like.”
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