In March 2014, Geert Wilders had a room full of supporters cry out for ‘fewer Moroccans’, immediately after that Roland van Vliet split from the PVV faction. He remained a member of parliament for another three years. And if Nilüfer Gundogan, who also wants to, were to ask him for advice: „Don’t go all the time saying how shitty things are at Volt. Do not sit down with Jinek again with your lawyers.”
He learned from Wilders: don’t rub a stain. “If you keep silent, everyone will forget everything tomorrow. Then you can still have a meaningful life in The Hague.” As a tax specialist, Van Vliet had a great deal of knowledge about finance, he was chairman of the parliamentary committee on housing associations, MPs from other political groups liked to interact with him.
But do people really forget? Van Vliet had wanted to join the VVD, but he couldn’t. Femke Merel van Kooten, ex-Party for the Animals and ex-50Plus, participated with her party Splinter in the municipal elections in Woerden last week, and stickers were pasted over her posters during the campaign: ‘Seat robber’.
Johan Houwers, ex-VVD, would prefer to be forgotten himself. He had been a councilor, alderman, Member of Parliament and Member of Parliament when he reached a settlement with the Public Prosecution Service in 2015 for mortgage fraud. According to the VVD, that was an admission of guilt. When he wanted to become a Member of Parliament again, it was his turn, the party expelled him as a member. As the Houwers fraction, he was seen at the Binnenhof as the prime example of filling pockets in The Hague.
Johan Houwers, real estate agent in Winterswijk, says over the telephone that it was all about “reparation”. He felt that he had been wronged by the VVD. But it didn’t work out for the honor. “If it all comes back now, I can only suffer from it in my work.”
He is a volunteer with the regional broadcaster RTV Slingeland and occasionally interviews local politicians. Does he himself miss politics? “Sometimes it itch.” Houwers thinks that this has to do with “a certain degree of vanity” that every politician has. “And probably every newsreader, the coach of Barcelona, the writer of columns.”
Is that it? On my tour of the junctions in The Hague, I hear that it is about ideals, ‘the content’. “I don’t like the shouting horn in politics,” says Liane den Haan, ex-50Plus. She is ‘Den Haan faction’ in the House of Representatives, and after the summer, she says, she will set up her own party. Femke Merel van Kooten won one seat in Woerden, next year she will participate in the provincial elections.
Former PVV member Van Vliet, now an inspector at the Tax Authorities, has discovered that “life as an ordinary citizen” is also nice. And the politics? “I still dream of that sometimes, yes.” He is silent for a moment. “If I had another chance to become Secretary of State for Finance, I would consider it.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of March 24, 2022
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