To make concessions? This is new and complicated for Party for Animals

Does the foreigner join the popular class club? A few years ago, the Animals Party said it was ready to take part in governance, both locally and nationally. After a big victory in the last municipal elections – the party grew from 33 to 63 seats – for the first time in twenty years at the negotiating tables for the formation of new councils: in Groningen, Arnhem and Amersfoort.

In the 2018 municipal elections, the number of council seats nearly tripled to 33. At the time, the HDP said it was already ready to take part in governance, but other parties were not yet ready for the CDU.

After the lower house elections in March 2021, when the party grew from five to six seats, the HDP itself decided it did not want a seat at the formation table. Party leader Esther Oehand said at the time that the Omtzegt memo and the subsequent lack of self-reflection on the part of VVD leader Mark Rutte had damaged confidence in a possible collaboration with him.

Although coalition negotiations in the three municipalities may collapse, the power of the DPP has never been closer. This takes some getting used to, with a party always acting like a louse in the fur. It also takes some getting used to the other parties: to put together an activist party that is not well known for its willingness to compromise.

Possible stopping point

Christine de Wrede, leader of the PvdD party in Groningen, has been active in the party for about fifteen years. When she won a seat on Groningen City Council for the first time in 2010, she was “walking on clouds”. Now the group has four seats and a seat at the negotiating table. “Worried enough, the world is growing toward our party. Climate change, for example, is becoming increasingly apparent. I think that contributes to our growing electoral success.”

This makes it increasingly difficult for other parties to get around PvdD. In Groningen, the informant, nominated by the winner GroenLinks, proposed a college made up of GroenLinks, PvdA, PvdD, SP and ChristenUnie. “We have a lot in common with GroenLinks and PvdA in particular,” says de Wrede. “For example, the three of us want a green city and more public control of the economy.”

It is wrong that the world is growing towards our party

Kirsten Reddy Head of the PvdD Groningen Party

But in all the municipalities where the PvdD party sits at the formation table, it also has to deal with fewer “green” parties than GroenLinks and PvdA. A potential breaking point could be building in “existing green spaces”. In all three municipalities, home construction is high on the agenda of the other formed parties. The PvdD party also believes that this is important, but the party should never allow it to be at the expense of nature. For PvdD in Arnhem, this is a requirement for coalition participation. The department in Amersfoort will not say anything about possible circumstances as long as negotiations are ongoing.

De Wrede does not yet know if it will make not building in nature a difficult case. In Groningen, a number of formed parties are concerned about PvdD’s housing situation, according to the whistleblower’s final report. “Tension around housing/nature should be discussed,” said the report of The Conversation with SP. De ChristenUnie: “Think carefully about the trade-off that the PvdD is making between their housing agenda and their green agenda.”

Also read this article: These are the plans of the local parties in The Hague

“Not a steakhouse”

In Utrecht, where GroenLinks is also the largest party in the city council, PvdD has not been invited to the negotiating table. PvdD there grew from two to three seats. GroenLinks would have liked to sit down with “Party Animals,” because there is a lot of substantive agreement on such important topics as housing and the energy transition. The PvdD party eventually withdrew after the polling stage, as can be heard in the halls of town hall, because the party was not sufficiently prepared in advance to make concessions. PvdD Chairman Martin van Hoeven: “I indicated to the informants that we are open to participating in the coalition, but that making concessions is new and complicated for us.”

For every PvdD faction, it’s about finding where their limits lie. Leo de Groot, party leader in Arnhem, where the PvdD has grown from two to three seats: “We also understand that, for example, we can’t ask everyone to stop driving tomorrow. But we don’t do the exchanges. You don’t do that in a good marriage.” We didn’t do yesterday what I like, so now we’re going to a steakhouse, because you like it so much, while I’m vegan.” In Arnhem, PvdD speaks with GroenLinks, D66, Arnhem Central, PvdA and Volt.

Animal Party leader Esther Oehand cleaning up the trash In Rotterdam as part of the municipal election campaign.
Photo by Rob Engelaar / ANP

At Amersfoort, PvdD won two seats and is now sitting at the table with D66, GroenLinks, CDA and Amersfoort2014. “If concessions are to be made that go against our ideals, we will not participate anymore,” says party leader Christian van Barneveld. He also wants to consider his willingness to make concessions “on a case-by-case basis”.

In Nijmegen, the CDU is not at the formation table, but party leader Michelle van Dorn still sees an opportunity. According to her, there are quite a few fundamental differences between the two largest parties, GroenLinks and Stadspartij Nijmegen, who are now negotiating with the D66. The PvdD party in Nijmegen increased from two to four seats. Van Dorn: “Other parties find the uncompromising character of our party exciting, but they also know me. I have a VVD background, I’m a true liberal and so don’t like finger pointing. If we were allowed to negotiate, I wouldn’t immediately put a bundle of breaking points on the table, But open the conversation first.”

By way of illustration, Van Doorn mentions plans to build additional homes on the town island of Waal. “We’re against it. But what if we give in to win half of our party platform? I’m not sure we would, but at least I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to it right away.”

Also read this article on the Animal Party’s readiness to govern after the 2021 elections: ‘We are ready for the cabinet’

Consultation

The leaders of the factions formed by the PvdD regularly quarrel with the National faction. According to group leaders and party leader Esther Oyhand, it is a matter of “consultation” and the final decision is made by local groups. “But of course you want your decision to be supported by the national faction,” says Oehand. In Utrecht, this approach was met with objections from other groups.

According to Ouwehand, the PvdD is not necessarily against making concessions. “We would like to say: We will implement these points of our party program and we will wait longer with the others. But we want a systemic change when it comes to how we treat the land. We will only participate if we see that the parties are ready to initiate that change of course.”

It is special and exciting for the PvdD party to join the discussion at the negotiating table, but both local party leaders and Ouwehand say governance is not an end in itself for the party. Ouwehand: „We want to keep pushing things forward, keeping people on their toes. And we only look at the best place, from the opposition or the coalition.”

According to the CDU, whether there will be a joint government is up to the other parties. “The key question is whether the other parties are willing to rule with us,” says Nico Kaufmann, the party’s co-founder and PvdD leader in the Senate. Kaufman believes it is increasingly difficult for other parties to outflank the CDU after every election. “Primarily because of the steady growth in seats, but also because the traditional parties are losing success, while at the same time excluding parties like the Forum for Democracy and the Freedom Party from participating in the coalition. Then they will have to look at parties like PvdD and Volt.”

Christian van Barneveld, leader of the Amersfoort party, notes another important change: “I note that our ideas are no longer the subject of ridicule and that more and more parties are adopting them.”

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