Upper House Speaker Resigns over Wilders Affair
THE HAGUE, 15/06/13 - Fred de Graaf has resigned as Speaker in the Upper House. He considers his position untenable because he apparently prevented Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders from being given a prominent role in the investiture of Willem-Alexander as king.
A statement on the website of the Upper House says: “Fred de Graaf has seen that the debate is persisting on the method of operation followed by him in the guidance committee for the investiture of the King on 30 April. As a result, his integrity is at risk. He therefore plans to inform the Upper House at its next meeting on Tuesday 18 June that he is resigning as Speaker.”
A number of sources in The Hague say the party leadership of the conservatives (VVD) pushed for the departure of De Graaf. “Naturally, there is contact with one another as VVD members at such a moment. But on the content of this, I cannot give any information,” said Premier and VVD leader Mark Rutte Friday. But it was De Graaf’s own decision to resign, he added.
Wilders was to have been part of an escort committee of five MPs who would guide Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima on their arrival and leaving the Nieuwe Kerk church. De Graaf, responsible for the ceremony, told De Volkskrant newspaper on Wednesday that he avoided this because he “preferred not to have (Wilders) along.”
"In the back of my mind, it certainly played a role that the sight of Wilders next to the king would have drawn much attention,” says conservative (VVD) party member De Graaf in the paper. The Senate Speaker wanted an event “without political ado.”
Wilders considers De Graaf is now doing the right thing by resigning. “This is to his credit, the only right decision. The impartiality of a Speaker has to be beyond question and that was clearly not the case here.”
“His position had become untenable,” Socialist Party (SP) leader Emile Roemer agreed. Christian democratic (CDA) leader Sybrand Buma termed De Graaf’s resignation "sensible", as did centre-left D66 leader Alexander Pechtold and 50PLUS leader Henk Krol.