Why far-right Dutch Forum for Democracy is falling apart?

By Yannis Nikolopoulos

During the worst pandemic period Forum for Democracy by Thierry Baudet is in the middle of a great and catastrophic crisis – and there are many good reasons for that.

Netherlands, as a country, has the awful privilege to have two different far-right wing parties in crucial political and parliamentary role and with significant popular impact, although reducing. The Islamophobic and antiimmigrant Party for Freedom, by Geert Wilders and the pro-Euroscepticism antiimmigrant Forum for Democracy, by Thierry Baudet. The last few weeks the second one is in the middle of a crisis and it is falling apart. Just four years after its foundation and only four months before the national elections of March, 17th.

The Forum crisis started Sunday, November 22nd when some of the most radical members of the party youth exchanged messages and some photos through the internet social media, such as Instagram and Whatsapp. In those messages the youth members of Forum suggested that ‘’Jews have organized international network of pedophile and they are pushing our women to join pornographic career’’ and ‘’National socialism had the best economical program and gave Jews a good lesson to remember’’. All the Forum for Democracy members love the social media communication and messages and the party leader, Baudet himself is quite addicted to the twitter daily use following the Donald Trump’s political and social media example, but in this case that was a total disaster exposing the pro-Nazi homophobic and antisemitic ideas which many of the youth members support under the political protection of the 37 years old party leader.

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The same night the Forum political council tried to blame for those messages only the top five members of the youth who were responsible for the internet campaign of the party and the party youth vice president, Frik Jansen. That was not enough for the colossal negative criticism on the internet and through the social media networks. Baudet was forced to take the responsibility for the pro-Nazi messages. On his Twitter account, the party leader claimed that he had the full responsibility for those messages. Then, he resigned from the party leadership with a new tweet expressing his personal will not to be a party candidate for the next national elections.

That was not the end. Several minutes later, Baudet withdrew his resignation and supported a new beginning for the Forum under his command. The case went big. Several party members accused Baudet for ‘’funny things and ridiculous statements’’ and claimed that he had no right to take part in the party’s procedures for a new leadership after his first full responsibility tweets and his crystal clear resignation.

The storm over the Forum members’ heads got started. The next day, November 24th, two very important party figures, MP Theo Hideman, 76 years old, and senator Paul Cliter, 65 years old, submitted their resignation from the parliament and senate Forum team supported strongly the maintenance of Baudet’s leadership. The same day, four more party MPs in the regional Amsterdam parliament made the same public statement.

The challenge was unexpected for many Forum members. Twitter was the main battlefield between the different inner party enemy groups of Forum. In Zvole, the four regional MPs resigned from Forum local group and started forming a new web organization for far-right radical social media users asking more Forum members to ‘’leave behind the party – circus of someone called Thierry Baudet’’. Friday night, November 27th, the Forum members’ defection completed in region Flevoland in which all the party members joined the general secretary, Astrid de Groote, 50 years old, who attacked Baudet writing on Twitter ‘’he is not the leader that Forum needs at this crucial time and he can not solve the problems of our party’’.

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Only one MP, the senator Bob van Pareren expressed his personal sadness for the pro-Nazi messages and tweets. ‘’The party does not belong to the Nazis and I do not want to belong to a party that does not keep fair and political distances from the Nazis’’, he wrote on Twitter.

Behind the party curtain, there is the Baudet’s political action to recruit neo-Nazi youth members by the dark side of the internet. That headhunting operation started last year and had significant impact to the Forum day by day social media presence last spring, when a Nazi flag was the main symbol of the Forum youth account on Instagram for a few days. That event caused the first conflict among the Forum party members and Baudet was the main savior of the radical pro-Nazi youth members who had the daily web communication duties of writing and responding to the users claims.

The main and real reasons for the Forum crisis are deeper. Baudet rules as an ‘’emperor’’ or ‘’dictator’’ some ‘’democratic’’ members say, his political achievements, especially in the state Senate are very poor and contradictory, his personal support to the Rutte government in legislation for social insurance policy was a disaster for the party’s popularity and many low profile members and voters are going to vote the ruling Popular Party on the next spring’s national elections just because they do not understand the role playing Baudet has used. The conflict in Forum had been postponed for many months due to the Baudet’s behavior, leadership and policy. The pro-Nazi messages were just the last of many episodes and causes for this Forum inner party battle that probably leads the far-right party to the political extinction.

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