PVV to contest local elections in Rotterdam, take on Leefbaar and FvD

Dutch left unites behind alternative government agreement

Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV will take part in the local council elections in Rotterdam, local broadcaster RTV Rijnmond said on Wednesday. The list of candidates, including the local campaign leader, will be announced on Thursday in front of the city’s Essalam mosque, the broadcaster said. Mosque imam Azzedin Karrat told the broadcaster he would make sure there was coffee and biscuits for everyone who turns up. 'We will be here with an outstretched hand,' he said. The decision to fight the March 21 local vote means three right-wing populist parties will be on the ballot paper: the PVV, Leefbaar Rotterdam (which is part of the current city coalition) and Thierry Baudet's FvD. Leefbaar and the FvD said in June that they would work together in Rotterdam because they shared many common standpoints. Last week Wilders announced the PVV would also be contesting the local elections in Utrecht but that he had not been able to reach his target of 60 councils because of the lack of good candidates. The PVV is currently represented only on the local councils in Almere and The Hague. In Amsterdam, the FvD has chosen controversial columnist Annabel Nanninga to lead its campaign. The PVV is not taking part in the elections in the Dutch capital.  More >

Lilian Marijissen takes over as SP leader

Lilian Marijissen takes over as Socialists’ leader as Emile Roemer quits politics Emile Roemer is stepping down as leader of the Dutch Socialist party at the beginning of January. Roemer, who has been an MP since 2006 and led the party since 2010, will be replaced by Lilian Marijnissen. Marijnissen, 32, is the daughter of former SP leader Jan Marijnissen who took the party to its best ever result of 25 seats in 2006. Marijnissen, the party’s spokeswoman on health has only been an MP since the March general election but was a local councillor in Oss for 13 years prior to that. There were two candidates for the leadership job - Sadet Karabulut and Lilian Marijnissen - but the 14 MPs voted in favour of the younger woman. Roemer, a teacher before he entered politics, will also leave parliament in January. He led the SP into three elections but lost seats in each one. In March the SP was unable to fill the gap left by the collapse of the Labour party PvdA - the PvdA lost 29 seats, the SP 1.   More >

Election results to be announced in public

Dutch left unites behind alternative government agreement Local councils will be required to announce election results in public meetings and publish them on the internet from next year as part of a plan to make the system more transparent. The government aims to have the new rules in place by March 2019, in time for the next provincial assembly elections which also determine the make-up of the Senate. At present election results are announced by mayors but there is no requirement to publish the outcome in full. The measures are expected to lengthen the time it takes for representatives to be sworn in after election day from eight days to 13. Other reforms include a ban on election candidates working at polling stations in order to prevent conflicts of interest. Around 14,000 votes cast in this year's general election in March were wrongly counted as a result of mistakes made by the central counting office in each of the 20 electoral districts, the electoral council reported. The government ordered all votes in the election to be counted by hand in response to concerns that electronic or digital counts were vulnerable to hacking.  More >

Lack of candidates encourages criminals

Dutch left unites behind alternative government agreement Political parties are having a hard time finding candidates to stand in the local elections of March next year, making local government vulnerable to criminal infiltration, the NRC reported on Friday. The paper looked at 75  parties in 35 towns and cities, and found half of them were having trouble recruiting enough potential councillors. Small local parties are particularly strapped for candidates. Parties are advertising or recruiting via social media in an effort to fill their electoral lists. Fewer than half of the parties do not ask for a certificate of good conduct which would flag up any criminal acts a person has committed, the NRC said. The association of councillors and the king's commissioner in Gelderland warned earlier that the lack of candidates makes is relatively easy for criminals to gain a foothold in a local council. They can then use confidential information about such things as zoning plans, licenses or local crime fighting measures to their own advantage, the paper writes. In 2014 40.2% of councils had ‘some to a lot of trouble’ finding potential councillors.    More >

'Officials altered cannabis research'

Dutch left unites behind alternative government agreement Senior justice ministry officials directly interfered with independent research into the ministry's own soft drugs policy, current affairs programme Nieuwsuur said on Wednesday night. The programme said that researchers altered unwelcome conclusions and reformulated research questions at officials’ request. The aim, Nieuwsuur said, was to manipulate the findings to ensure they supported existing policy rather than criticised it. Nieuwsuur based its findings on conversations with a whistleblower, who made a complaint about the interference in 2014, and on internal ministry documents. The programme looked at research carried out by the ministry’s own independent research unit WODC into coffee shops and the nuisance caused by drugs tourism and on the legalisation of cannabis cultivation. The researchers concluded that that a policy based on repression and banning sales to foreigners was not solving any problems because there is actually very little nuisance from drug tourism in many places. Politically sensitive But according to an email from a civil servant, that conclusion was ‘so politically sensitive’ that it had to be revised. 'We cannot accept the conclusions as they now stand,' one official is quoted as saying. Officials deleted research questions, made notes in the margins of the study and removed an entire chapter with conclusions and recommendations on how government policy could be improved. The then justice minister Ivo Opstelten later told parliament the study supported his policy. Current justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus told Nieuwsuur in a reaction: ‘Policy has to be separate from scientific research. The policy-making officials must not involve themselves with the outcome of that research.’ Protocols have since been sharpened up, Grapperhaus said. Later on Thursday the minister announced that he had commissioned an external inquiry to find out if pressure had been placed on researchers charged with compiling the two reports.  More >