Pieter Omtzigt: Dutch outsider, politics firmly takes center stage

Typically in European elections, rebel candidates come from the outer edges of the political spectrum: the far left, or, More common these days is the far right…This man really comes from the center. It would be almost impossible for him not to be so marginalized if he tried.

Pieter Omtzigt, a Dutch Christian Democratic lawmaker for 18 years, announced in August that he would form a new party to “do politics differently,” days after the party topped opinion polls . With two days to go until the polls, the party is vying for the lead. parliamentary elections.

Wednesday’s voting results still far from certainBut analysts say the rapid rise of Omzitter’s New Social Contract (NSC) reflects his personal reputation, the political space he occupies, his commitment to democratic reform and the fractured state of Dutch politics in particular.

With many undecided and polls suggesting tactical voting could be a deciding factor in the vote, Omzhit – who has ruled out an alliance with anti-Islam Geert Wilders – may benefit from the last minute The allegiance switch is aimed at stemming a possible surge in far-right forces.

The 49-year-old is perhaps best known for his role in Overthrow Mark Rutte’s government in 2021 A child welfare scandal resulted in more than 20,000 families being falsely accused of fraud, many based on their race.

But Rem Korteweg, a senior fellow at the Clingendael Institute, an international relations think tank, said he had long been “the stuff of parliament.” “He believed in parliament holding the government to account, and he did so…many voters tended to look at Omzigert.” He is not so much a politician as a parliamentarian. “

Sarah de Lange, a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam, agrees that Ormzite’s reputation is one of “authenticity, principle…consistency.” “He is seen as a defender of ordinary people against the abuse of power by the state.”

His image as a “principled outsider” was further enhanced after the 2021 election, when his ability to cause problems for any new government represented by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party was considered so powerful that negotiators When exploring possible alliance arrangements A note was found leaving the meeting which read: “Omtzigt: Publish elsewhere”presumably outside the Netherlands.

Omchit retired from politics and soon after left the CDA to serve as an independent. “He suffered burnout, but it did no harm to his image,” Kortwig said. “This guy is very principled, but potentially very troublesome.” The country’s power brokers basically want to get rid of him. “

Four successive coalitions led by Rutte have been hit by a series of government scandals. Eventually called “Teflon Mark” Omzigert’s position in the political arena and his commitment further help explain his ability to survive these crises.

Mark Rutte, who has been prime minister for 13 years, is retiring from politics. Photo: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock

“His centrist program can appeal across the board,” De Lange said. “I think actually what he offers is a very modern interpretation of the Christian Democratic tradition: trying to balance the state, the market and society.”

A devout Catholic, Omzigert’s platform combines relatively left-leaning economic policies — raising taxes on the wealthy, cutting tax breaks for businesses, improving workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage and providing more support for low-income earners. — combined with a “practically equivalent” social perspective. Lean to the right,” Kortweg said.

De Lange said that on cultural and ethical issues — immigration, abortion, euthanasia, transgender rights — he is “obviously very conservative.” “For example, he wants an immigration cap for all categories, maybe as low as 50,000 people: asylum seekers, foreign workers, students. That’s much lower than what we have now.”

Surveys show that a left-right policy mix is ​​attractive to Dutch voters, while many are also attracted by Omzett’s promised political reforms, including a move to a constituency-based electoral system, a stronger role for parliament and the establishment of a constitutional court to monitor politicians.

History is littered with outsider candidates who rose to prominence through jaded Dutch voters: the far-right populist Pim Fortuyn, who was shot dead in 2002; Wilderswho might still This time brings a surpriseIn provincial elections, Thierry Baudet Far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) Achievements in 2019 were outstanding, and rural uprisings were driven by Peasant Citizen Movement (BBB) This year.

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Their success is partly down to the Dutch electoral system, one of the purest proportional electoral systems in Europe, and a highly fragmented political landscape: 26 parties will contest next week’s election, 18 of which are likely to win seats in parliament. As Kortwig said: “You can win here with 18 percent of the vote.”

Analysts are heartened that the rebels making headlines this year are from the center rather than the extremes, a sign that voters want change but not necessarily from the radical right. The line-up of candidates for the National Security Council is a highly respectable mix of civil servants, local politicians and members of Congress. Rivals of mainstream political parties.

“Omzitter may come across as an outsider, but he is really tapping into the long Christian Democratic tradition in the Netherlands. People forget that the Christian Democrats were the largest party in the country in the 1990s,” De Lange said.

Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius wears a pink coat and walks among the crowd on the street, smiling for the camera
Justice Minister and new leader of the Free Democratic Party (VVD) Dylan Jesilgoz-Zegelius also hopes to win next week’s election. Photo: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

However, his surge in popularity remains relative.Although Rutte’s Liberal Democratic Party (VVD) was beset by scandals during its 13 years in power, it is now led by Minister of Justice Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegiusroughly the same situation as the National Security Council.

Current polls show the NSC and VVD tied at 18%, with the Green Labor (GL/PvdA) coalition led by former EU commissioner Frans Timmermans just behind. At 16%, he is closely followed by Wilders who could close the gap. Who will finish first, and what shape the eventual alliance will take, is anyone’s guess.

Kortwig warns against having too high expectations.Like all Dutch politicians, Omzite Trump, who has said he is prepared to serve as prime minister of a “cabinet of experts,” will face the reality of a political process rooted in alliances, concessions and compromises.

“When the coalition agreement is finally signed, there will be very little left from anyone’s actual manifesto,” Kortweg said. “Will an Omzigert-led cabinet really mean significant policy changes? That’s far from certain. “

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