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Forum for Democracy

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Forum for Democracy
Forum voor Democratie
AbbreviationFvD
LeaderThierry Baudet[1]
ChairpersonThierry Baudet
Leader in the House
of Representatives
Thierry Baudet
Leader in the SenateJohan Dessing
Leader in the EPMarcel de Graaff
FoundersThierry Baudet
Henk Otten
Founded1 September 2016[2][3]
HeadquartersHerengracht 74,
Amsterdam
Youth wingJongerenorganisatie Forum voor Democratie (JFvD)
Think tankRenaissance Institute
Membership (2024)Increase 61,633[4]
Ideology
Political positionFar-right[12][13][19]
European Parliament groupECR (formerly)
ID (formerly)
Non-Inscrits
Colors  Maroon
House of Representatives
3 / 150
Senate
2 / 75
States-Provincial
15 / 570
King's Commissioners
0 / 12
Website
www.fvd.nl

Forum for Democracy (Dutch: Forum voor Democratie [ˈfoː.rʏm voːr ˌdeː.moː.kraːˈ(t)si], FvD) is a far-right[12][13][20] political party in the Netherlands, founded as a think tank by Thierry Baudet and Henk Otten in 2016. The party first participated in elections in the 2017 general election, winning two seats in the House of Representatives.

At the time of its conception, the FVD was considered a conservative liberal and a Eurosceptic movement positioned on the right-wing of the political spectrum;[9][21][22][23][24] however, after several founding members split from the party, it has been described as adopting more radical policies and messages.[25][26][27]

History[edit]

FVD was established by Baudet and Otten as a citizens initiative and then a think tank whose main feat was campaigning in the 2016 Dutch Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement referendum and against the EU in general.[28] The think-tank argued for the introduction of a referendum act and campaigned with GeenPeil to have an inquiry into Dutch membership of the eurozone.[29]

In September 2016, it converted itself into a political party and announced its intention to take part in the 2017 general election, where the FVD ended up with 1.8% of the vote and two seats, entering parliament for the first time. In February 2019, the FVD had nearly 31,000 members.[30]

In February 2018, in part due to its rapidly growing pace, the party suffered from internal issues with a number of prominent members leaving the party because they felt the party had a lack of internal democracy.[31]

Electoral breakthrough[edit]

In the 2018 municipal elections, the FVD won three seats on the Amsterdam city council.[32] The party only stood in Amsterdam. In Rotterdam however it endorsed the Livable Rotterdam party.[33] During the 2019 provincial elections, Forum for Democracy won 86 seats, spread across the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. In South Holland, North Holland, and Flevoland, FVD became the largest party, winning 11, nine, and eight seats respectively. In all other provinces, the party came either second or third in terms of numbers of votes. As populists, the bulk of the Forum's nominated parliamentary candidates did not have prior active experience in other political parties.[34][35]

On 30 April 2020, Forum for Democracy formed a coalition with the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) in the North Brabant province, the first time the party had formally entered into the administration of a regional authority.[36] In late 2020, former VVD MP Wybren van Haga defected to the party. Van Haga left FVD six months after that.

Splits[edit]

In April and November 2020, the party became split following a series of controversies related to members of the FVD's youth wing making comments that were deemed to contain racism and homophobia. Baudet was also accused of endorsing antisemitic conspiracies, something he denied. This led to calls for Baudet to be removed as FVD leader and he temporarily stepped down. In December 2020, it was announced that Baudet had returned as party leader and would lead the FVD into the 2021 Dutch general election.[37]

At the 2021 general election, the party campaigned against COVID-19 lockdown measures in the Netherlands imposed by the Dutch government and managed to win eight MPs. However, the issue of racist comments from youth members was brought up again during the campaign.[38] One of the accused youth members, Gideon van Meijeren, was elected into parliament, as was youth wing chairman Freek Jansen.

In May 2021, three of the FVD MPs (Van Haga, Hans Smolders and Olaf Ephraim) left the party to sit as independents in response to the FvD releasing a poster comparing the lockdown to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.[39][40][41]

In 2022, the FVD regained representation in the European Parliament when Marcel de Graaff defected to the party. As a result, the FVD became a member of the Identity and Democracy group instead of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). In 2022 FVD left the European Conservatives and Reformists Party. In March 2022, Senators Theo Hiddema and Paul Frentrop left the party over FVD's absence at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech to the House of Representatives, leaving only Senator Johan Dessing.[42]

Ideology and political positions[edit]

At the time of its foundation in 2016, the FVD was initially described as a national conservative and a conservative liberal political party.[43] The party self-identified as liberal conservative[44] and sat on the right-wing of the political spectrum.[9][21][22][23]

After establishing itself, the party and its platform started to be perceived by political commentators as a standard Eurosceptic national populist political party,[45][46] and on the far-right of the spectrum.[11][26][14][15][16][17][18] It was also accused of drawing links with the alt-right movement.[47] The FVD has been described as ideologically national conservative,[48][5] Hard Eurosceptic, and right-wing populist.[6] On its official platform, the FVD declares itself to be a movement rather than a party with a focus on protecting Dutch sovereignty, identity, and cultural and intellectual property. The party wants stricter immigration and integration policies, calling for the protection of high culture and "Judeo-Christian values". The FVD is also opposed to the integration of the European Union which it claims will lead to eventual Eurofederalism and supports a referendum on Dutch membership of EU.[49] In the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad, historian and philosopher Jozef Waanders has described the FVD as containing various factions, including members sympathetic to the ideas of Ayn Rand and Michel Houellebecq.[50] The FVD has also been described as one of several contemporary conservative-populist parties in the Netherlands that have been inspired by or inherited the mantle of the defunct Pim Fortuyn List.[51]

The party initially focused on drawing support from former People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) voters who felt the VVD had grown too soft on the policy areas of European Union and immigration, but saw Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) as too hardline, and tried recruiting candidates who came from professional rather than political backgrounds.[52] The FVD has been accused of cultivating popularity among the alt-right movement, although the party does not identify itself as such.[53]

From 2019 onwards, political commentators and authors have described the FvD as growing further to the right of the PVV by adopting more radical stances.[54][55]

In the European parliament, the FVD sat with the European Conservatives and Reformists until a split in the party in 2020, when its former MEP's defected to JA21 party and joined European Conservatives and Reformists Party. FVD then left the European Conservatives and Reformists Party. The party was affiliated with the Identity and Democracy (ID) far-right political group of the European Parliament for a short period in 2022,[56] leaving in October after accusing ID of being anti-Russian.[57] As of 2022 the party's current MEP sits as a Non-Inscrit.[58]

Economy[edit]

FVD in the economic field supports economic liberalism.[43] The party is a proponent of the introduction of a high tax-free bracket for everyone, the abolition of taxes on gifts and inheritance and a radical simplification of tax brackets.[59][60][61][62] The party is a proponent of drastic changes in elementary and secondary education, focusing on performance evaluations for teachers.[63] It wants to expand the armed forces, expanding the National Reserve Corps and reverting defense budget cuts.[64]

Electoral reform[edit]

One of the major issues, Forum for Democracy campaigns against is the perceived existence of a "party cartel" in which the main ruling parties of the country divide power among themselves and work towards the same goals despite claiming to be competitors.[28] The party promises direct democracy through binding referendums[34] as well as directly elected mayors and a directly elected Prime Minister.[65][66] The party is also in favor of the government consisting of apolitical experts in their respective fields ("technocracy"), and top civil servants having to reapply for their positions whenever a new cabinet is formed.[67]

Immigration and European Union[edit]

The party states that it supports protecting European civilization and wants free trade between European nations and the world but is opposed to the European Union (EU) and the Eurozone. The party calls for an immediate end to EU enlargement and for the Netherlands to use every veto possible to prevent the EU from becoming a federal superstate. It also supports referendums and Dutch withdrawal from the Eurozone and the Schengen Agreement. FVD also wants a renegotiation of Dutch membership of the EU followed by a binding referendum on EU membership and an "intelligent exit" (Nexit) from the EU if it cannot be reformed and terms cannot be met.[68]

The FVD also adopts a nationalist viewpoint in which the Dutch culture should be protected.[69] The party is in favor of reinstating border controls and ending what it perceives as mass immigration.[70][71] It also campaigns against unchecked immigration, says it would introduce a Dutch Values Protection Act. The party supports freedom of religion and calls for equal treatment of all citizens regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, but is also against any further influence of Islamic culture on Dutch society, supports a crackdown on forced or child marriages and wants to ban Islamic face veils and other face coverings. The FVD also opposes foreign funding of Islamic schools and institutions, and argues that all schools in the Netherlands should subscribe to "Judeo-Christian values."[72][73] FVD also states that immigrants who do not wish to integrate should be offered incentives to return to their native country and that whenever possible asylum seekers should be processed off Dutch soil.[74]

Foreign policy[edit]

The FVD blames the NATO countries for the escalation of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and openly supports the Russian view of the conflict.[75] The party's original co-founder Henk Otten has criticised the FVD's stance on Russia and called Baudet a "Manchurian candidate" of Putin.[76] Baudet has supported Dutch withdrawal from NATO.[77]

The FVD has shifted from an initial strongly pro-Israel attitude towards the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,[78] towards criticism of Israel's role in the 2023 Israel-Hamas war,[79] with Baudet praising the pro-Palestinian DENK's stance on the conflict.[80]

Criminal justice[edit]

The party calls for a reform of the Dutch justice system, increased funding for the Dutch police force, tougher penalties against those convicted of violent crimes and where possible for non-naturalized immigrants found guilty of serious crimes to be deported and tried in their country of origin.[81]

Environmental and social policies[edit]

FVD calls for a gradual legalization of soft drugs but also supports reducing the number of cannabis coffee shops within the vicinity of schools.[82] The party also calls for a reduction in the use of plastic, more support for the agricultural economy, sustainable farming and tougher laws against animal cruelty.[83] In the spring of 2019, the party, endorsing a climate change denialist platform, intensively campaigned against large state investments in renewable energy, leading to a victory in the provincial elections.[84][85] Later that year, it also supported protests by Dutch farmers against enforcing legislation on nitrogen emissions.[86]

Society and culture[edit]

FVD supports high culture. It argues for the protection of Dutch culture and "European classical music, art and knowledge." It is critical of modern architecture, calling for both new government buildings to be constructed in a neoclassical style and for city planning that "fits within a historical view." FVD also supports the establishment of a commission to protect historic monuments from destruction, wants Frysk to be retained as a second state language, calls for schools to teach about "beautiful things that the West has produced" and supports free museum admission for all Dutch citizens.[87] However, the party has also promoted plans to defund and privatize the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep, a Dutch public broadcasting organization.[88]

Although the party has argued for equal treatment of people of different sexual orientations, it calls for the protection of children against what it describes as "woke and LGBT propaganda" and supports prohibiting minors from being in Pride parades and taking hormone therapy.[89] FVD has spoken out against feminism and has promoted traditional gender roles such as that of the "masculine man that supports his family".[90]

Controversies[edit]

Since it became active in politics, FVD has sparked controversy,[91][92] especially regarding allegations of racism against important FVD politicians,[93] the FVD "left-wing indoctrination in education" hotline[94] and initially whether the FVD is a far-right formerly refused by the party.[23] Many of these controversies surround party leader Baudet.[95]

In April 2020, HP/De Tijd revealed instances of antisemitism, homophobia and glorification of Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant in online WhatsApp groups associated with FVD's youth wing.[96] FVD later investigated these instances and discharged three members from the political party. Three additional members were also suspended.[97] More similar messages were revealed in November by newspaper Het Parool which published an article about extremist comments made by members the party's youth organization.[98]

In response, a committee of inquiry was set up with some FVD politicians such as Theo Hiddema arguing that the youth wing should be disbanded and others stating the FVD should follow the example of the Sweden Democrats by disassociating the youth-wing.[98] Baudet also resigned as lead candidate and was temporarily replaced by Lennart van der Linden.[99] The day after Baudet resigned as leader, vice-leader Theo Hiddema vacated his seat in the Tweede Kamer for "personal reasons," although some media outlets opined that it was due to controversies within the party.[100] The following day, Senator Paul Cliteur also resigned from his position as Senate leader while remaining a member of the party. On 26 November 2020, FVD Senator Nicki Pouw-Verweij released a letter alleging multiple incidents during a dinner on 20 November, including Baudet making antisemitic statements claiming that the COVID-19 lockdowns were concocted by George Soros and lashing out at colleague Joost Eerdmans. Baudet denied the accusations.[101]

In December 2020, Baudet reversed his actions and announced the party would hold a leadership contest. The FVD's board announced an internal referendum on whether to expel Baudet from the party and replace him with a new leader. This took place on 3 December 2020, with 76% of FVD members voting in favour of Baudet remaining in the party and he subsequently resumed his role as leader.[102] In protest at the outcome, the FVD's three MEPs, seven of its senators and some of its parliamentary candidates for the upcoming general election resigned to sit as independents before joining the JA21 party founded by former FVD members who had left due to the youth wing controversies.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the party caused controversy and saw another three of its MPs leave after it released a poster on Holocaust Memorial Day comparing lockdown measures with the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The analogy and timing of the poster was criticized by the Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands.[103] During the pandemic, members of FvD were accused of circulating conspiracy theories regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and using further Holocaust comparisons with vaccinations and social distancing. In December 2021, a Dutch court found Baudet guilty of "creating a breeding ground for antisemitism" with his statements and ordered him to delete social media posts comparing COVID policies to the Holocaust or face a fine. Baudet denied that his statements were intended to be offensive or antisemitic.[104][105]

The FvD has also been criticized for alleged financial and politics ties to Vladimir Putin with Dutch television show Zembla claiming to have unearthed WhatsApp communications between the party and someone Baudet describes as a Kremlin official. Baudet claimed the messages were a "playful exaggeration."[106] Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the FvD's leadership have been condemned by both former party members and other Dutch political parties for supporting the invasion, taking an overtly pro-Putin stance and blaming the West for the war. In October 2022, the party's remaining MEP was suspended (and subsequently resigned) from the Identity and Democracy European Parliamentary group after posting messages on Twitter praising Putin and expressing support for Russia in the war.[107][108]

Split-off parties[edit]

In August 2019, former FVD senator and founding member Henk Otten announced he had registered Group Otten (GO) as a new political party.[109] GO had two seats in the Senate and one seat in the European Parliament which were taken up by former FVD members.[110][111]

On 18 December 2020, former FVD parliamentary candidates Joost Eerdmans and Annabel Nanninga created JA21 to contest in the 2021 Dutch general election following what they felt was the FVD's poor handling of members of the youth wing who had made extremist statements and controversies related to Baudet. They were joined by the FVD's three MEPs and seven senators.[112]

Following the 2021 Dutch election, FVD MP Wybren van Haga founded Belang van Nederland and was joined by two former FVD MPs.[113][114]

Representation[edit]

Thierry Baudet, founder and leader of the party

Members of the House of Representatives[edit]

Members of the Senate[edit]

Members of the European Parliament[edit]

Election results[edit]

House of Representatives[edit]

Election Lijsttrekker Votes % Seats +/– Government
2017 Thierry Baudet 187,162 1.78 (#13)
2 / 150
New Opposition
2021 521,102 5.02 (#8)
8 / 150
Increase 6 Opposition
2023 232,963 2.23 (#11)
3 / 150
Decrease 5 Opposition

Senate[edit]

Election Votes % Seats +/– Government
2019 27,473 15.87 (#1)
12 / 75
New Opposition
2023 4,866 2.72 (#12)
2 / 75
Decrease 10 Opposition

European Parliament[edit]

Election List Votes % Seats +/– EP Group
2019 List 602,507 10.96 (#4)
3 / 26
New ECR (2019-2020)
ID (2022)
NI (2022-2024)
4 / 29
Increase 1
2024 List 155,187 2.49 (#12)
0 / 31
Decrease 4

Municipal[edit]

Election Municipality Votes % Rank Seats +/-
2018 Amsterdam 20,015 5.77 8th
3 / 45
New
2022 Amsterdam 6,688 2.1 12th
1 / 45
Decrease 2

Provincial[edit]

Election Leader Votes % Seats +/–
2019 Thierry Baudet 1,057,029 14.53 (1st)
86 / 570
New
2023 237,899 3.07 (12th)
15 / 572
Decrease 71
Province Seats in 2019 Seats in 2023
Drenthe
6 / 41
1 / 43
Flevoland
8 / 41
2 / 41
Friesland
6 / 43
1 / 43
Gelderland
8 / 55
1 / 55
Groningen
5 / 43
1 / 43
Limburg
7 / 47
1 / 47
North Brabant
9 / 55
1 / 55
North Holland
9 / 55
2 / 55
Overijssel
6 / 47
1 / 47
South Holland
11 / 55
2 / 55
Utrecht
6 / 49
1 / 49
Zeeland
5 / 39
1 / 39

Organization[edit]

Leadership[edit]

Party membership[edit]

Prior to 2022, party membership numbers of FVD were not independently verified and have been disputed.[115][116]

Year Membership[117][118][119]
2017 1,863
2018 22,884
2019 30,674
2020 43,716
2021 45,322
2022 58,890

Flemish chapter[edit]

Forum for Democracy founded a Flemish chapter in January 2024. It intended to participate in the June 2024 European Parliament election in Belgium's Dutch-speaking electoral college, but the party did not manage to collect the required amount of signatures.[120]

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