Local politicians representing animal rights party PvdD have called on its organising committee to step down as the row over the deselection of its leader Esther Ouwehand intensifies.
Some 185 PvdD delegates on provincial assemblies, municipal councils and water authorities wrote a joint letter to the board expressing their support for Ouwehand, the leader of the party’s group of six MPs.
Last weekend the board said it was replacing Ouwehand as its lead candidate for the general election in November because she had allegedly breached its integrity rules. The name of the new leader is due to be announced on Thursday.
Supporters of Ouwehand, including deputy leader Christine Teunissen, said she had apparently been sanctioned for writing to party members about the need for “urgent reforms” to the party’s infrastructure to address an “unhealthy management culture”.
In their letter, the delegates said the board had “chosen to escalate and thereby unnecessarily damage the party.”
“As a result we no longer have any confidence in the board,” the letter continued. “We have confidence in Esther Ouwehand as our lead candidate and party leader.”
“Culture of fear”
Nieuwsuur reported on Monday that the row dated back to the summer, when Ouwehand complained that a female board member had been spreading “lies” about her and should be removed.
In a document published by Nieuwsuur, Ouwehand also expressed her frustration that she had “run up against a wall” in her efforts to reform the party as its membership and number of elected officials grew.
Not all MPs are explicitly supporting Ouwehand in the row. The Telegraaf cited anonymous sources on Tuesday who complained of “Stalinist” conditions and a “culture of fear” under her leadership.
A source also claimed that MP Leonie Vestering had taken sick leave in May because of a deteriorating relationship with Ouwehand.
Vestering, who at the time said her absence was trigged by a “work situation”, neither confirmed nor denied the claim when question by the Telegraaf. “I understand the question, but I am choosing not to answer at this time,” she said.
Latest opinion polls, based on surveys taken before the row became public, indicated the PvdD was on course to win between seven and 10 seats at the election.
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