In almost half of the municipal councils – 45.6 percent – one or more councilors left their original party in the past three and a half years to start their own faction. This is shown by research by NRC.
It means there are now 150 political groups that voters did not vote for in 2018. The most commonly cited reason for a split is “difference of opinion.” This can be both a personal reason – conflicting characters – and a substantive reason: a councilor can no longer agree with a position that the rest of the group takes.
Splits are not prohibited; the Electoral Act has no political parties, only elected officials. A representative of the people may therefore resign and keep his seat. But for years there have been voices calling for splitting to be more difficult. In the House of Representatives, for example, split-offs receive less speaking time and money. Outgoing minister Ollongren (Internal Affairs, D66) already called on municipalities a few years ago to follow that example.
The number of divisions in municipalities is increasing. newspaper Fidelity calculated just before the municipal elections in 2018 that there were splits in 30 percent of the municipal councils. Two decades earlier, between 1998 and 2000, that percentage was 5.8 percent, according to research by the scientific office of the PvdA. So now that is 45.6 percent; NRC followed 318 municipal councils from the 2018 elections, in the remaining 34 no municipal elections were held due to a reclassification or there are no municipal elections in March 2022.
Also read: Quarrel in the council faction? Then soon follows a split
The size of the municipality, and thus the number of seats on the council, has no influence on the number of divisions. There is, however, a difference between national and local parties: splits occur twice as often in the latter. According to political scientists, this could be because national parties have a higher threshold to get on the list of candidates and candidates have often been involved as a party employee for a number of years, for example.
Among the national parties, there have been many splits in the VVD. Together with the CDA, this party is also most often represented in municipal councils. Remarkably often there have been splits in the SP. The national SP policy is frequently mentioned in local media as the reason, for example the obligatory payment to the party treasury and the interaction with the Red youth section. National policy also played a part in a number of resigning CDA members: the “too right course” of party leader Wopke Hoekstra, the collaboration in North Brabant with Forum for Democracy, and the treatment of the departed MP Pieter Omtzigt. At the ChristenUnie, the Nashville statement on homosexuality in a council was the reason for a split.
At three, the number of splits was highest in Wassenaar and Hoorn, among others, but the number of factions in the last municipal council did not increase due to merging parties. In 22 municipal councils, including Maastricht and Ede, the number of political groups increased by two. Fractions sometimes also merge, which has reduced the number of parties in, among others, The Hague, Wormerland and Rucphen.
Also read: Report about the city council of Hoorn with 14 groups
The amount of councilors who switched from one party to another has not been reached NRC examined. According to Bahreddine Belhaj, chairman of the Council Members’ Association, this happens “on the assembly line”. It is also not counted how many councilors have left and have been replaced in the meantime. This also happens regularly: in Amsterdam more than a quarter stopped prematurely, NRC calculated earlier.
Junctions in Hoorn IHN 6-7
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of October 18, 2021