Binnenhof, the Dutch Parliament
Binnenhof, the Dutch ParliamentiStock

A few weeks ago, nobody could have forecast that antisemitism in a sizable Dutch populist right wing party would lead to its implosion. The Forum for Democracy (FvD) was founded in 2016 by a young intellectual, Thierry Baudet, who is now 37 years old. In the 2017 parliamentary elections the party gained two seats.

The FvD’s greatest success was reached in the 2019 provincial elections when it became the largest party in several provinces. The FvD and the other, longer established, right wing populist party PVV – led by the internationally best known Dutch politician Geert Wilders – polled at their joint highest point in April 2019, receiving a quarter of all voting intentions.

In closed communications one member claimed that “Jews had international pedophile networks and helped women massively to enter pornography,” as well as that “national socialism had the best economic formula ever.”
It became publicly known in November 2020 – even though there were indications months before -- that in the youth section of the FvD there had been a number of expressions of antisemitism and extreme radicalism. In closed communications one member claimed that “Jews had international pedophile networks and helped women massively to enter pornography,” as well as that “national socialism had the best economic formula ever.”

Shockingly, the whistle blowers who opposed these expressions were expelled by the youth section rather than having the the extreme radicals ejected. The youth section is headed by Frederik (Freek) Jansen, a close confidant of Baudet. He said a number of times that if the Third Reich had not lost the war militarily it could have led to an economic success and stabilization on a world scale of that system. He has also been accused of distorting the Holocaust.

Baudet is a good speaker and debater, wellread, intelligent and flamboyant, yet frequently inconsistent, two-faced, and largely lacking discipline and selfcriticism. He is more of a figure to be written up by a novelist in a short story than a politician, manager or leader.

It is difficult to pin Baudet down on his positions on specific issues. He often says things which he later describes as “just teasing people” or uses the excuse that he had been drinking alcohol. Baudet says that he does not want to clarify what he remembers to have said because memory is fallible.

Unrest in the party recently increased rapidly mainly due to the antisemitic statements in the youth section. Some candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections demanded the section’s dissolution.

But the major move, which led to the party’s implosion in the polls, was made by Baudet. He announced on November 23 that he was resigning the FvD leadership and would not be the head of its list for the upcoming parliamentary elections in March 2021. There was one proviso though. Baudet said that he might take the last place on the party’s list. In the Dutch electoral system this means that preferential votes could still put him into parliament.

Some radical opinions of Baudet are beyond doubt, even though he may deny them on other occasions:

He wants Europe to be a white continent. In more common terms, he is a white supremacist.

He is an admirer of extreme French twentieth century fascists, antisemites and collaborationists of the Vichy regime and Nazi Germans. These include Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, Charles Maurras the founder of the antisemitic Action Francaise, as well as Maurice Barres.

Baudet said at a recent dinner – confirmed by several attendants -- that George Soros had spread the Covid pandemic to take away people’s freedom. A few days later he said that that was an absurd position. (See youtube in Dutch here:

The political success of the party he built has apparently led to Baudet’s increased megalomania. In 2018 he said that within three years he would probably be the Dutch prime minister. There is discussion in the media on whether he is a conservative who has radicalized or whether he has always held at least several extreme right-wing views, including some that are antisemitic.

Publicly the Forum for Democracy has always taken pro-Israel positions. Baudet's fiancé is of Jewish descent. He claims that his grandmother saved the life of a Jewish woman during the occupation of the Netherlands by the Germans.

In view of Baudet’s recent positions, a slew of elected representatives of FvD left the party. So did several of its top candidates for the upcoming elections.

Baudet soon regretted his resignation and wanted to be party leader again. Thereupon a quick referendum among FvD members was held in which the majority supported Baudet’s return. No other candidates could be presented. Baudet’s reelection led to additional departures from FvD. Among them its three members of the European Parliament.

In polls the party’s support has imploded. One of the Dutch leading pollsters, Maurice De Hond said that after this mess the party’s electoral potential had shrunk to three to four seats. The pollster remarked that it was irrelevant whether the FvD was represented in the upcoming elections by Baudet or by his opponents. Yet at the same time, there was much support for the thesis that the Netherlands needs a figure like Baudet.

The first one to play an innovative role on the Dutch conservative right in the new century was university professor, Pim Fortuyn. He founded a new party, which was Eurosceptic, critical of multiculturalism and state bureaucracy. He also wanted tougher measures against crime. Fortuyn was murdered by an extreme animal rights advocate in 2002 which led to the gradual collapse of his party.

This murder may have changed Dutch political history in a major way. Fortuyn was so far the most serious conservative political contender in the Netherlands. Baudet initially appealed, with ideas largely in the same spirit, to what seemed to be a conservative audience to the right of the VVD liberal party of prime minister Mark Rutte.

The Netherlands may now have to wait for another person to emerge to fill - competently - the conservative leadership vacuum. In the meantime, in De Hond's latest poll the PVV reached 28 seats, a number surpassing the largest number of seats it ever had in parliament.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum, most probably confirming Baudet as party leader, the FvD is no longer a major force in Dutch politics. Baudet built the party and is the main reason for its implosion.

One bizarre aspect --totally unexpected -- is that antisemitism played a sizable role in this process.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism, and is considered the foremost expert of antisemitism.