Switching to another party in the meantime: is that possible?


Femke Merel van Kooten announced today that she has become a member of 50Plus and wants to participate in the parliamentary elections for that party. Van Kooten has been in the Chamber since March 2017, first for the Party for the Animals and since the summer of 2019 as an independent member of parliament.

In the NOS Radio 1 Journal she said that she will continue to implement the Party for the Animals election program until the elections and that there will be no interim switch to the 50Plus group. “That is not allowed at all, you cannot join another party as a splitter.”

Is that right? It is theoretically possible that someone will switch from one group to another during a parliamentary term. According to Professor of Parliamentary History and Parliamentary System Bert van den Braak, the only example in the Lower House is Stef Dijkman: in the 1980s, Dijkman wore three “different hats” during one parliamentary term.

Dijkman was elected to the CDA in 1982, formed his own group after all sorts of substantive conflicts and in 1985 joined the then PPR, one of the predecessors of GroenLinks. From 1985 to 1986, Dijkman was a member of the PPR group, who therefore received one seat.

Roland van Vliet

More recently there was speculation about a similar switch from MP Roland van Vliet; only it did not come from such a ‘transfer’. Van Vliet was in the House of Representatives for the PVV. Out of dissatisfaction with the race of that party, he split off in 2014 and continued as a one-man group. He became a member of the VVD during the parliamentary term and allegedly made an attempt to switch to the party of the ruling party in the meantime, but failed because, for reasons of principle, the VVD did not want to “take over” MPs who did not VVD list.

Van den Braak also points to another example where it was not a question of a transfer of individual MPs, but a change in the composition of fractions for reasons other than departure or division: in 2001, the fractions of RPF and GPV merged prematurely to Christian Union and continued under that name.

There are many MPs who have been in the Lower House for several parties. Recent history includes Teeven (Liveable Netherlands / VVD), Van Otterloo (PvdA / 50Plus) and Kraneveldt (LPF / PvdA). But in all those cases it was not about a transition during the same parliamentary term.

Voters cheats

In the discussion about the position of individual MPs, it is usually not about joining another group, but much more often about splitting off. Because they are quite common. Then the word “voter fraud” falls with some regularity. The splitters then often emphasize that they are not the “guilty ones” of the conflict, and that they are democratically elected.

Van Kooten wants to continue to implement the Party for the Animals election program; according to her, that party itself opted for “narrowing the course”. Also Wybren from Haga does not see himself as a seat robber. He was expelled from the VVD last year after a conflict over his involvement with his real estate company, and then continued as a one-man faction. Van Haga then underlined that he did not leave the VVD on his own initiative and that he continued to support the coalition agreement.

In the discussion about the position of parliamentarians, state lawyers usually emphasize that MPs have an “individual mandate of voters” and that they “vote without charge” under Article 67 (3) of the Constitution. then Minister of the Interior, Plasterk, questioned the many demergers, but he came to the conclusion that a constitutional ban more benefits than benefits stick. “Such a ban would make our party system even more dominant than it is today,” he wrote in 2015.


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