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Dutch headline: ‘The whole of Amsterdam hates Femke Halsema as mayor’

Amsterdam lost its mayor Eberhard van der Laan when he died last year. A new mayor has been appointed, which does not bode well for the city: Femke Halsema. She was the leader of GreenLeft until recently.

Published: July 14, 2018, 9:55 am

    Eberhard was temporarily replaced by Jozias van Aartsen, the former mayor of The Hague. Under his administration that city acquired its first no-go zones. He oversaw a similar project in Amsterdam.

    In Holland’s municipal elections, people vote for persons, not for parties. But is there is one problem however: people can not vote for a mayor or even which alderman actually represents voters in the city council.

    That is decided behind closed doors by the parties, and GreenLeft won the most votes in Amsterdam. Thus they get to decide who will be mayor.

    It is possible for a popular politician to be elected with preferential votes, but that is not the norm. Everybody in The Netherlands knows about Cornelis de Gelder, a tramp with a severe alcohol problem. He ran for office in 1921, more or less as a joke. He was elected nevertheless because even back then people were already fed up with back-room politics.

    The normal procedure is that the most the likely parties get together and negotiate a deal. As long as it pleases the lords regent, that is. In Rotterdam the party Leefbaar won by a landslide but was boycotted out of office. That is how the council is formed.

    Electing a mayor is a very different matter however. Mayors in The Netherlands are not elected, but appointed by the king. The king himself does not decide who becomes mayor, but merely appoints the preferred candidate which local parties decide in secret.

    And when a journalist got hold of information about the new mayor, the city filed criminal charges with the Rijksrecherche – the Dutch secret service – against the reporter.

    Amsterdam has always had strong communist and socialist parties. Since 1945 the mayor has always been a socialist. These days GreenLeft, the former communist party, leads the city in the municipal elections.

    The results: GreenLeft 10 seats, D66: 8 seats, PvdA: 5 seats, Socialist Party: 3 seats, Conservatives (VVD): 6 seats, Forum for Democracy (FvD): 3 seats, Denk (a branch of the Turkish AK party): 3 seats, the other parties combined (including the CDA): 7 seats.

    Halsema is not popular outside Amsterdam. One reason may be that she resigned from politics exactly one day after she was entitled to a full parliamentary pension. Dutch parliamentarians who serve twelve years or longer get a full pension. She retired mid-term the very next day.

    When she cashed in and retired, she solemnly promised not to return to politics, no matter what.

    But the opportunity to govern the biggest city in The Netherlands for at least six to ten years, was clearly a very big carrot. In The Netherlands the mayor of Amsterdam is known as prima inter pares, the head of a powerful triangle: the civilian authority, together with the chief of police and the district attorney, controlling civilian administration.

    “Amsterdam has just converted into a people’s republic. An Islamic people’s republic, mind you. The only thing lacking is a muslim mayor, but Arnhem and Rotterdam make up for it,” says political observer H. Numan.

    Surprisingly, the new mayor, a vintage car enthusiast, drives an old Mercedes 200 Diesel, without environmentally-friendly filters. It is hardly a “green” choice, but her supporters claim that it “is a non-political issue”. At the same time GreenLeft riles against anyone with an old car — except against their nomenklatura.

    The new mayor of Amsterdam also moved her two children from their “black” school where the Muslim majority had harrassed them, while most Dutch do not have the same privilege. In fact, Halsema regularly attacks anyone who dares to voice concern over “black schools” as they are called in the country.

    “A lot has changed for the worse. The PVV [Geert Wilders’ party] is effectively muzzled. The referendum law was abolished this week in the senate. Things are not looking good,” Numan concluded.

    Most Dutch voters feel the same. A petition to stop Halsema was signed more than 6000 times within hours. The petition appeared on the internet in the autumn of 2017 after the then mayor Van der Laan (PvdA) announced his fatal illness and Halsema’s name came up as a possible candidate.

    Social media exploded after the news broke, with headlines noting that “The whole of Amsterdam hates Femke Halsema as mayor” A slogan appeared shortly after the revelation: “Femke Halsema aan het roer, Amsterdam naar z’n moer!” [Femke Halsema’s leadership will turn Amsterdam into a shithole!]

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