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Smaller PvdA ‘better for democracy’

6 July 2007 - Last Tuesday, the Zuidoost PvdA expelled three district council members from its party group, thus giving up its absolute majority. The opposition hopes to gain more influence, but doubts whether real changes will occur.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, received wisdom has it. According to Elsevier Magazine, that is exactly what is wrong: Amsterdam in general and Zuidoost in particular are ‘one party states’ where the PvdA can do as it pleases.

As usual, Elsevier exaggerates a little. Yet even Maria Tiggelaven, VVD council member and therefore coalition partner of the PvdA, believes that it is ‘better for democracy’ that the PvdA can no longer call the shots on its own.

Noush Saranjam (photo) of opposition party SP is somewhat more outspoken. She holds that the district was not a real democracy during the past months. According to her, the PvdA behaved in an arrogant manner.

Plans or motions proposed by the opposition were swept off the table, purely because they came from the opposition, Saranjam says. “Under such circumstances, we cannot do our job”. She stresses that she has not met with her party group since Tuesday and that she therefore speaks in a personal capacity.

Mart van de Wiel of the Independent Zuidoost Party (OZO) is critical too. He states that the PvdA sometimes even refused to put issues the opposition wanted to discuss on the agenda. “I think that it is never a good thing if one party can call the shots. For the opposition, it is terrible”.

On Tuesday, the PvdA expelled council members André Bhola, Egbert Doest and Mala Eckardt-Angna from its party group because the Accounting Office had found them to have been involved in conflicts of interest. The PvdA now has 14 out of 29 council seats in Zuidoost.

WHAT WILL BHOLA, DOEST AND ECKARDT DO? The party members expelled from the party group may still decide to give up their membership of the council. In that case, new PvdA candidates will take their place, and the party will regain its majority.

However, the general expectation is that the three will stay on as independent council members. Van de Wiel expects they will uphold the coalition agreement they have agreed with when they were still PvdA council members, and that they will support the PvdA in council votes.

According to Van de Wiel, this might change if the PvdA should decide to formally expel them from the party. This might upset them to the point of no longer wanting to support the PvdA.

Bhola, Doest and Eckardt themselves declined to comment until after the summer recess.

WHAT WILL THE VVD DO? The PvdA has been governing Zuidoost with the VVD, which has three seats, for quite some time. Saranjam expects that little will change: the coalition still has a majority. Van de Wiel expects that the VVD will ‘uncritically’ support the PvdA.

Henk de Boer of opposition party CDA thinks differently. He expects that the VVD will have a stronger position, now that the PvdA needs its votes.

Tiggelaven of the VVD acknowledges: “Presently, the PvdA can no longer take decisions on its own”. Yet she says that the VVD sees no reason to change its course: “For now, the coalition agreement will be carried out. We have a solid coalition agreement that we are very content with”.

Of course, there is always the possibility that issues arise that are not dealt with in the coalition agreement. “We have to wait and see how people will vote then”.

WHAT WILL THE PVDA DO? Now that the PvdA has fewer council members, it has become more important for the party to maintain internal discipline and prevent members voting against the party line. The opposition hopes that tensions within the PvdA will arise. Of course, if they can contribute, they are more than willing to do so.

For example, De Boer predicts that Lourens Burgers will have to step down as PvdA party leader, to be replaced by Muriel Dalgliesh. Through speculations at their weblogs, opposition parties try to fuel tensions within the PvdA. De Boer: “We are having a field day at our websites”.

See also: PvdA Zuidoost expels three party members


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