By Emma Breed
On the 20th of October, Vera Bergkamp, current Speaker of the Chamber, send out a letter to the Second Chamber. The Presidency of will start an inquiry into the former speaker of the Chamber, Khadija Arib. Arib is accused of abuse of power, reigning by terror, and an unsafe work environment in two anonymous letters. Arib herself, feels this action by Bergkamp is a witch-hunt. Is this another move in a political game or is Vera Bergkamp right to investigate?
It’s not the first time that the code of conduct was broken within the Second Chamber. In 2018 Han ten Broeke, of the VVD left the Second Chamber because of an inappropriate workplace relationship which broke out into a scandal. He had a short relationship with a 25-year-old co-worker, Han was at that time 49 years old. The relationship was deemed to constitute a difference in the significant power dynamic between the two individuals. Ten Broeke stated that this never should have happened.
In 2021, former D66 MP Sydney Smeets stepped down after it became public that he made several sexual advances on dozens of teenagers. There was more treble with D66, after they had to admit that they had created a work environment where female co-workers felt unsafe and “dirty practices” had been commonplace in the past.
Earlier this year, former MP Nilüfer Gündogan was temporarily suspended and then fired by Volt. There was a wide range of reports about Gündogan’s transgressive behaviour; groping, sexual advances at men from her party, harassment, workplace gossip and abuse of power. Furthermore, former PvdA MP Gijs van Dijk also resigned after unwanted behaviour in private. Whether justified or not, Van Dijk admitted to not always having been honest in relationships. But these relationships were completely outside his political career.
Former Speaker of the Chamber, Khadija Arib, was next. As PVV leader Gidi Markuszower put it, “the political witch-hunt is on for Arib setforth. Today it is Arib, tomorrow it can happen to any MP. Withdraw that proposal for investigation. This political witch-hunt must not continue”.
Arib is accused to having crossed a line during her tenure. There was alleged abuse of power, an unsafe working atmosphere and a reign of terror in the chamber. Arib understands that her chairmanship could be perceived as harsh by MPs, “but in such an environment it is necessary” she says. In an interview in the militaire courant in April 2021, she admits to being too strict at times. “Sometimes I look for the MP in question after the debate and then we talk about it”. So the accusations come as Jack in the Box. According to Bergkamp, politicians have been complaining about Arib for longer. And that is what the investigation initiated by Vera Bergkamp is supposed to be about. The fact that Bergkamp initiated the inquiry is causing friction between the two women. Arib expresses herself on Twitter, believing that the enquiry is a political dagger stab in her back. Bergkamp does not think the former president is delivering a dagger stab and bases her decision on “an urgent request” from the country’s lawyer, Reimer Veldhuis. Arib has decided to step down, despite criticism from the Second Chamber, the investigation is going ahead. Arib has announced that she will not cooperate within the investigation.
There is a pattern of MPs leaving politics after revelation of cross-border behaviour. Being accused of such misconduct is political suicide and the party they’re in would also rather lose them than keep them. It is a real political defeat. Meindert Fennema, a guest on NPO Radio 1 says about Arib: “She is now being dragged through the mud. You will never get rid of this. The harm has already been done.” Therefore, distancing herself from politics might be the right choice. After spending 24 years in politics, the show is over. “This is the ugliest side of politics, a side that I have always opposed to both as a member of parliament and parliamentary president,” Arib herself says. Because no one but no one should leave the Chamber this way. Arib deserves a big farewell party and I will be there.