Rarely have I heard the call for the speaker’s resignation so loudly in recent weeks. “The boss,” said PVV Geert Wilders on Oct. 4 in the plenary room facing Vera Bergkamp. I expected you to have resigned yourself in the past few days. It is disappointing that you did not.” Last week, the PVV attempted to formally make this wish. In vain, because the request received no support from other political groups.
However, Bergkamp (D66) had been under severe pressure for weeks. At the end of September it leaked across Norwegian Refugee Council She explained that the Presidency of the Chamber unanimously decided to start an external investigation into reports of an unsafe work environment during the reign of her predecessor, Khadija Oraib (PvdA). This led to a change in public opinion on the very same day. Arib’s performance was not in question, but Bergkamp’s.
a Violent reaction from Arib via Twitter gave impetus. She described the House’s decision to launch the outside investigation as “anonymous”, and a political stab in the back. “And Bergkamp demanded a statement about this modus operandi. This is inconsistent with due diligence and a socially safe work environment.”
Shortly thereafter, Oraib announced that he wanted to step down after 24 years as a member of parliament. Last weekend, the entire Chamber’s official management team—including the clerk, the top official—resigned as well.
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The state surrounding the proposed Arib investigation is primarily attributed to Bergkamp as Speaker of the House by a portion of the House. How can sensitive information discussed in the Presidency of the Republic be leaked? The Executive Council of the House of Representatives, consisting of eight deputies, is a politically neutral body. The deliberations are confidential. It is an official offense to leak it – Bergkamp has since filed a report at the request of the House of Representatives and the National Criminal Investigation Department is investigating.
And how is it that Arib was not notified of the investigation with her at the end of September, but by a phone call from Norwegian Refugee Council Have you heard? Why do House staff say, if only occasionally publicly, that they still don’t feel safe in their job? Why has this risky operation gone so carelessly so far? In short, where is President Bergkamp’s direction?
doubt about the election
Criticism of Vera Bergkamp is not new. She has been criticized regularly since the day of her election, Wednesday 7 April 2021. Her victory – with 74 votes defeating her opponents Arib and PVV member Martin Bosma in the first round – has been questioned by many. There would have been a silent agreement between the two largest factions in the room, the VVD and D66, to go to Bergkamp and not to the incumbent President Arib, who is popular in the room. This is as a means of exchange to keep VVD leader Mark Rutte afloat. A week ago he had come out of the debate politically battered over the way CDU MP Peter Umtzigt (“a job elsewhere”) was debated in the formation.
D66 leader Sigrid Kaag should have admitted that she and Rutte had contacted Rutte about Bergkamp’s candidacy. “This case stinks,” concluded FJP member Gidi Markuszower. “You don’t want to be set up like that, do you?”
Bergkamp has always denied the alleged political agreement. “It’s not true,” I repeated in a long interview last summer. space for discussion at the University of Amsterdam. “I have done everything in my life on my own.” She added that she suffered from “the political game being played on the other side”. The image that says her victory is punched out” is still stuck. And so I have to work harder to get rid of the “must have” image.”
None of her critics will deny that Bergkamp is working harder, but that, too, has not gone smoothly in the first year and a half of her presidency. In the more visible part of her work, which drives the debates, a lot goes wrong. In the current fragmented House of Representatives, there is much to be done about polarization, simmering debates, and personal attacks. Apart from criticizing MPs who act in an “unparliamentary” manner, this criticism mainly applies to the president who spoils the debates.
During recent public policy reversals, Bergkamp silenced Free Democrats leader Thierry Baudt after the whole government had clearly stepped up from Section K and left the room.
Baudet put forward a conspiracy theory about the university education of Deputy Prime Minister Kaag. He referred to her as a former student at Oxford’s “spy college”. Bergkamp hesitated, initially not intervening and finally decided to ban Baudet from speaking after a comment in which she consulted with Prime Minister Rutte behind the scenes. This led to a jeer from SGP party leader Kees van der Steij. “I think it’s important that the president determines the matter and that the members of the cabinet do not determine what can or cannot be said by the deputies.”
In January, the debate over the government’s announcement spiraled out of control following allegations made by Geert Wilders against politicians of Islamic origin. Several party bosses demanded that party chairman Bergkamp intervene. For example, GroenLinks leader Jesse Claver said, “The president also has the option to ask the politicians here to take their word back.” “And if they don’t, you can cut them off.” But Bergkamp did not.
When she had to admit a little later that it was not about “unwanted qualifications from colleagues back and forth” but only from Wilders’ mouth, it was precisely the FPO leader’s reaction to this accusation that troubled Bergkamp from the start. “You’re just taking sides!”
Thanks to the often critical Van der Staaij, Vera Bergkamp managed to earn some credit with The Room this week and thus some air on Arib’s tricky case. Bergkamp temporarily chaired the scheduled meeting of the Work Method Committee by the SGP leader. The previous meeting, where “Arib” was on the agenda, was completely derailed under Bergkamp’s leadership. Van der Steij led this meeting in a practical and skilful way – with a clever trick he managed to neutralize Bergkamp’s biggest critics. Marcoszor, a member of the PVV, was not the first to speak, while he had spoken of it, but last.
With the exception of the PVV, Bergkamp ultimately received widespread support for the way the Presidium wants to conduct the outside investigation into the Arib case. The House of Representatives wants researchers to also look at how members of the Presidency then dealt with alarming signals from House staff about Khadija Oraib’s management style. Vera Bergkamp was also a member of this committee at that time.
Bergkamp sometimes seems to take criticism of MPs to heart. In an interview with Chamber Debate, she described the role of the Chamber Chair as “the arbiter who stands above the parties”. This metaphor came from the mouth of Peter Umtzigt in the derailed debate over government proclamation. But in a slightly different context. “If the referee in a football match constantly says ‘poo, fu, you’re not allowed to step on your ankle’, but don’t interfere with yellow and red cards, nothing happens. That’s what you do.”
A version of this article also appeared in the November 19, 2022 newspaper
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