Senior Member of Parliament (MP) Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) will not be returning to the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber after the March 2021 elections, he announced last Friday. He has been an MP for thirteen years, featuring prominently in the portfolio Kingdom Relations.
“Your hesitation is your answer,” someone recently told Van Raak (50) when asking the question whether he would run once more in the upcoming elections. “Many people don’t realize the heavy workload of an MP — how that takes a toll on your personal life. I need some time to catch my breath — to recharge, to write and to think,” he stated in his announcement that he would not be on the slate of the next elections.
“For 20 years I fought against neo-liberal politics,” said Van Raak. He started his career in The Hague in 2000 as a researcher for his party, the SP, and became a Member of the First Chamber, the Senate in 2003, before switching to the Second Chamber in 2006. “I have seen the world in The Hague change a lot in those 20 years. Everything changes, for better and for worse, but one change in particular caught my eye: the parliamentary democracy became a media democracy, involving a whole different game with different rules — a change that our parliamentary system is not really prepared for.”
Van Raak said he noticed that debates originally took place in the Second Chamber, with the media afterwards. “Now it is the other way around. MPs talk about the issues in all sorts of media followed by some discussion afterwards in a Second Chamber debate. That, in essence, has changed the debate.” According to Van Raak, the debates in the media have a different character than the ones on the floor of Parliament where politicians face each other and can question one another until a solution is found that carries the majority support. He stated that many parties nowadays judged politicians on their media performance. Van Raak said that for all the years that he has worked in The Hague, he has been able to do many things that he is proud of. He mentioned various research projects and initiative law proposals that were adopted by Parliament, including the law to protect whistle-blowers. Currently, he is defending his initiative law proposal for a corrective referendum.
Several of Van Raak’s initiatives were carried out by government, such as the standardization of the highest incomes in the public sector and the restricting of hiring consultants at the ministries in The Hague. “I looked for and dug up social mishaps as a lone wolf against large powers, always continuing, questioning and never letting go until the truth is uncovered.” Van Raak said that this was also the manner with which he dealt with Kingdom Relations, a portfolio that he already had at the time of the final negotiations to dismantle the Netherlands Antilles and the formal process to create new constitutional statuses for the islands.
Being very vocal, his vigor and often harsh messages are not always appreciated by everyone, especially not by numerous politicians on the islands who consider him to be a troublemaker meddling in internal affairs. Many residents, however, see a Dutch politician telling things the way they are, naming the issues that they would never voice aloud such as corruption and the influence of the mafia and the gambling sector. “I have fallen in love with the islands, with the people who have to fight every day for their living. But I am also angry with the elites that shamelessly profit off the islands, the gambling bosses who launder criminal money, all the financial advisors who make this possible, the local politicians who allow themselves to be bribed,” said Van Raak.
The MP said he sometimes got irritated with Dutch politicians who tried to make an impression with “politically correct” talk which did not help the people on the islands one bit — “the attitude of looking away from the big problems that exist on the island,” he said, aiming in particular at the poverty issue. “The islands and the people [are — Ed.] in my heart and I will keep being involved with their fate in the future, in whatever way possible. Naturally, I will keep doing so as an MP until March next year. I will keep fighting against the political abuses and for the interests of the common people,” he said.
Van Raak said he was not done with his party, with politics or with the people, and that above all, he would surely miss his work as an MR “Oh my, I’m going to be so sorry. I am going to miss it so much. What an honor and privilege it is to serve as an MR But when you have doubts, that is a sign. Then the time has come to stop.”
Apart from Kingdom Relations, Van Raak has the portfolios Home Affairs, Justice and Security, and he is a member of the Presidium, a small group in charge of daily management of the Second Chamber, headed by President Khadija Arib. Van Raak, who studied philosophy, recently published a book titled “Thinking on the dykes. The Netherlands of the philosophers”.
The Daily Herald