Pieter Omtzigt, a popular Member of Parliament in the Netherlands, has been the subject of much speculation in the political press as to whether he will form his own party and participate in the upcoming elections. Omtzigt is known for his relentless pursuit of information from the cabinet, often working long hours and immersing himself in various political issues. He has gathered a circle of thinkers and supporters around him, though no formal ties have been established. Omtzigt faces opposition from ministers and his own party, but he is undeterred in his mission to seek out the truth. While he often aligns with certain parties on certain issues, he cannot be easily categorized. nonetheless, his sense of duty and work ethic have sometimes led to missteps and criticism. Despite these challenges, Omtzigt is taking his time to make a thoughtful decision about his future in politics.
The entire political press stares at Pieter Omtzigt’s timeline: when will ‘The Annunciation’ come? Will the popular Member of Parliament participate in the elections with his own party? Just as the masses on St. Peter’s Square in Rome often have to wait a long time for white smoke for a new pope, Pieter Omtzigt also asks for a little patience. Though it looks like he’s in on it. What is his modus operandi?
1. Omtzigt eats files, asks questions and bites down
Ping! message. Turn around in the app. At night and day sometimes. Everyone around the Binnenhof knows that the parliamentarian from Enschede does not keep to office hours. Omtzigt is a workhorse. That has always been the case, CDA members say. When they walked to the café after a long day in the Chamber, a light was still on at Omtzigt’s office. Omtzigt prefers files to a beer.
He’s tenacious. Whatever the subject – pensions, corruption, the rule of law, MH17 or the Supplementary Affair – the ex-CDA member immerses himself in the theme, knows exactly where the political pain lies and then starts his mission.
The political louse in the fur is loved and hated, thinks faster than many others, always asks more information from the cabinet. He wants a timeline, a statement of facts. And that one memo, that’s what he wants to receive too. He often seems driven by suspicion that the government mainly withholds documents, but on crucial files it turns out that this suspicion is sometimes very justified.
2. Omtzigt gathers thinkers and helpers around him, but does not commit formally
A think tank, a financial support foundation (with more than two hundred thousand euros in cash), a professor, political kindred spirits: since Omtzigt left the CDA in 2021 after a fight, a ring of knowledge and expertise has emerged around the parliamentarian. These are sometimes direct employees, but much more often they are remote thinkers.
Initiatives such as the Social Christian Democracy foundation, the New Think Tank and the political party De Alliantie sympathize with Omtzigt, although there are no formal ties so far. Should Omtzigt take the leap to the party leader’s podium, these informal circles will probably offer help and assistance, thinks CDA party leader and Omtzigt sympathizer Gabriëlle Heine from Maastricht. Heine therefore also thinks that it will not be that difficult for Omtzigt to come up with a party program and a list of candidates.
The ideas have partly solidified in Omtzigt’s book in recent years A new social contract (2021). It contains plans to improve the foundations of the rule of law – the system of power and counter power. “You have those think tanks around it, there are many capable people,” says Heine, who says he will remain with the CDA. “The question is more: how do you give substance to it? Even if you are recovering from a burnout. That is really up to Omtzigt itself.”
Sounds that Omtzigt or his confidants are already asking people to participate are denied by his spokeswoman. “Peter is making a decision. But there’s nothing else yet. You have a group of thinkers, the rest is all yet to come.”
Formally, Omtzigt keeps its hands free. Talks with other political parties did not lead to a commitment, although the door was open at BBB.
3. Omtzigt does not shrink from opposition
Ministers (also from his own party), the CDA main board, the government in Malta: Omtzigt encounters opposition at many levels. Council of Ministers minutes from 2021 offer a rare insight into the resistance encountered by Omtzigt: fellow party members Wopke Hoekstra and Hugo de Jonge describe that they were busy ‘sensitizing’ (influencing) Omtzigt around the Supplementary Affair, ‘with limited success’.
Ten years earlier, Omtzigt threatened to end up on the sidelines of the CDA, but he fought his way up with a personal campaign. Omtzigt stuck his neck out on major issues such as the rule of law, pensions and allowances, but sometimes he also acted as an ombudsman for people in trouble. In Malta, he helped the family of a murdered journalist who exposed favoritism on the island. A bomb attack ended the investigative journalist’s life, Omtzigt helped push for an investigation. Eventually, the Maltese Prime Minister resigned.
During that period, CDA members were concerned about the work ethic and Omtzigt’s lack of dosing: take it easy, they said, take time off. Omtzigt said to the AD website: “When parents email me with complaints about the Benefits service, I don’t say: I’m too busy. And when the sons of a murdered journalist from Malta come knocking, I don’t look the other way.”
4. Omtzigt often agrees with BBB and SGP, but cannot be pigeonholed
In recent years, Omtzigt presented himself as a social-conservative politician with a keen eye for the government as a shield for the weak. As long as there is no party – let alone a program – potential voters can look to the voting behavior of the solo MP for guidance: with which other parties did he vote?
NRC analyzed all votes with the help of political scientist Tom Louwerse (Leiden University) and sees that Omtzigt is most in line with the SGP (81 percent overlap) and BBB (80 percent). The former CDA member clearly differs from right-wing populist parties such as PVV, Forum and JA21, but also from left-wing opposition parties such as PvdA and GroenLinks.
Yet he cannot be pigeonholed: despite the agreement with BBB, they differ on crucial aspects. For example, Omtzigt himself reported that he ‘did not go to parliament to protect the meat industry’, he does not want to scrap the nitrogen policy and he believes that emissions from the agricultural sector should be reduced.
5. But he can also lose himself in files
His sense of duty and his zest for work touch on the Achilles heel of the ‘Omtzigt method’, say people who have worked with him. Omtzigt is at his best when he helps people, investigates abuses, analyzes files and confronts a minister with wrong policies. The successes in this area are evident.
But sometimes he goes on. Not everything Omtzigt touches turns to gold. Things went wrong in 2017 and Omtzigt made a blunder in the MH17 file. He had helped a ‘fake witness’ with his statement for a meeting with relatives. Omtzigt later acknowledged that he was wrong and handed in the spokespersonship for MH17. Criticism was heard more often, for example when Omtzigt – usually a warm supporter of openness and transparency – refused to release his apps with the mouth mask dealer Sywert van Lienden.
And working with the parliamentary pit bull is complicated, say CDA members. Sometimes there are emotional outbursts, even in the presence of journalists. The party advised Omtzigt to take a rest, but the parliamentarian is still struggling with the aftermath of a burnout. In 2021, the MP reported sick for a number of months because, among other things, the Supplementary Affair, the party leader election and files such as corruption in Malta had demanded too much of him. For some, this was reason to question Omtzigt’s suitability as party leader. Former politicians such as Henk Kamp (VVD) and Alexander Pechtold (D66) also see a one-sided approach: many questions and accusations, but no responsibility.
This is at odds with Omtzigt’s own view, who sees it as a problem that many career politicians in The Hague ‘run a sprint’ to the cabinet section, want to become a minister or state secretary. After all, in Omtzigt’s eyes, the representative of the people is the highest office.
6. Omtzigt thinks and has doubts about major decisions
Now that there is no reconciliation with the CDA and the flirtation with BBB does not continue, the big question in The Hague this summer is whether Omtzigt will set up and lead a new party. That also means: organizing, letting go, delegating. Not exactly talents that Omtzigt has according to former party members. But if the MP succeeds in doing so, pollsters predict a golden result for his list.
Omtzigt takes the time for a ‘thought-out decision’. He may be known as the ‘decisive terrier’, when it comes to choices in his personal life, he often has to think long and hard, he admits in a radio interview at the end of 2020 shortly after the change of power at the CDA: “I am not the fastest thinker (…) When I think about things for years, answers come out smoothly. But when things are about me…”
The enormous electoral appeal meanwhile increases the pressure. Shortly before the summer, he said giving an interview about his political future is already causing him great stress.
#Omtzigt #method #dissected #louse #fur #asks #questions #tenacious #enemies