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Duyvendak welcome in Amsterdam council

24 August 2008 - With his activist background, Wijnand Duyvendak, who recently stepped down as MP, should be able to become a member of the city council or a district council in Amsterdam. This is the outcome of a survey among 65 (district) council members.

During the past weeks, Duyvendak (GroenLinks) became the talk of the town for having committed political burglaries and published names of civil servants in the 1980s, which would have resulted in threats. However, sixty percent of the respondents say that it should be possible for him to be a council member with this background.

Support is strongest among members of GroenLinks and especially the PvdA. Respondents who have themselves participated in many types of actions are more inclined to support Duyvendak. On the other hand, the VVD members who participated in the survey unanimously say Duyvendak should not be a council member.

Five members of GroenLinks agree. For example, Aaron Moscoviter (Bos en Lommer) says that Duyvendak has played a role in personal threats. Further, he has indicated that he can no longer be an MP, 'then you can't be a council member either'.

In general, 37% of respondents say that people who have broken the law while participating in actions, without use of violence or threats, should be able to be a council member.

Twenty-six percent say that they should only be able to become a council member if they have been open about their own role, and another 20% further say they must have renounced their unlawful actions. Here too, a majority of VVD respondents reject politicians who have been involved in civil disobedience.

Various GroenLinks politicians are uneasy with the current policy of their party, which has renounced unlawful protest. "Does this mean that [party leader] Femke Halsema won't let us plant flowers anymore?" asks Rutger Groot Wassink (Westerpark), hinting at the clandestine 'guerrilla gardening' actions the party has been organising.

Last week, Alderman Maarten van Poelgeest (GroenLinks as well) said in the Nova TV show that civil disobedience could be justifiable under certain conditions. VVD party leader Eric van der Burg called this statement 'unacceptable'.

Seventy-two percent of respondents have no problem with aldermen saying that civil disobedience can be justifiable. This includes a few VVD members, that is, Jos de Wit (city council), Michèl Tromp (Geuzenveld party leader) and N.J.H. van Hasselt (Zuideramstel).

Thirty-one percent of respondents say that the selection committee has asked them about their past activism. Seventy-nine percent say that the committee should discuss this topic.

Respondents could indicate whether they wanted to remain anonymous, over half the respondents said they did. The issue seems to be most sensitive for PvdA members, who were far more likely to choose to remain anonymous.

Mainly members of GroenLinks (20), PvdA (15) and VVD (11) participated in the survey. The results cannot be assumed to be representative for all Amsterdam council members. They reflect the opinions and experiences of the 65 respondents who participated in the survey.

See also comments by resondents in the Dutch version of this article. Image: GroenLinks youth commit clandestine guerrilla gardening at the Stadhouderskade. Photo from website.


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