February 27, 2024

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Who is the politician who described Geert Wilders as a witch?

Who is the politician who described Geert Wilders as a witch?

After a whirlwind political career, Dutch Minister Sigrid Kaag replaced The Hague with Palestinian monuments. Internationally, she is viewed as a high-ranking diplomat with a long track record of service, but in Binnenhof she quickly became the most hated politician in the Netherlands.

Stavros Keleporis

The photos became instantly iconic. Sigrid Kaag, known in her former life as a very serious diplomat, dances on the table of the D66 party headquarters. The first opinion poll showed that the Dutch Social Democrats had achieved the largest electoral victory in their history. For Kaag, this was the culmination of her return to the Netherlands. This strengthened her ambition to become the first female Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Less than three years later, Kaag left The Hague again. She will leave her position as Finance Minister in Rutte's fourth government at the beginning of 2024. At the request of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Kaag is once again withdrawing from diplomacy as coordinator of reconstruction and humanitarian aid for Gaza. From Binnenhof to Palestinian antiquities.

This puts an end to a whirlwind political career that quickly becomes difficult for Kaag. In October 2017, D66 leader Alexander Bechtold asked her to become Minister of Foreign Trade. Not long after, she also took control of the party leadership herself and propelled D66 to electoral success. But this success was in stark contrast to the personal losses incurred by political life.

label “witch”

Kaag quickly became the most hated politician in the Netherlands, receiving frequent death threats. Weekly magazine Amsterdam green She once calculated that Kaag received 13,000 hate messages in five months, one every fifteen minutes. Thanks to Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, her opponents called her a “witch.”

This climate became increasingly less suitable for Kaag. And it's not like she wasn't used to anything. At the United Nations, she built an impressive career as a high-level diplomat in conflict zones. Until her appointment as minister, she was a special envoy to civil war-torn Lebanon. Previously, she headed a special UN mission to destroy chemical weapons in Syria – a position that brought her face to face with dictator Bashar al-Assad on more than one occasion. On the sideboard in her living room is a framed letter from US President Barack Obama, thanking her personally for her role in the peace talks.

Kaag saw her return to the Netherlands as a final destination: now was the time to give back to her country. She saw the strained relations with (part of) the Netherlands as a profound disappointment.

So what made her such a hated woman? Just the fact that she is a woman, according to Cage herself. “Not everyone likes a highly educated, verbally strong, experienced woman,” she said earlier this year in a magazine interview. the morning. “A woman who thinks she wants to be prime minister, that's a lot!”

According to her opponents, Kaag often came across as cold, sensitive, and elitist. But the reality may be that Kaag was not easily impressed by her political opponent. Anyone negotiating with Assad will not tremble in fear at the face of the ridicule of Geert Wilders or Thierry Baudet.

Sigrid Kaag.Photo by Rebecca Fertinel

“A lot of people saw her as a very cold and cruel woman. She is a very warm person and mother,” says Khaled Bouvadis, her personal assistant in The Hague for years. “Every month, she takes an hour to write cards to completely unknown people wishing her happiness. Even during heated political discussions, she would talk to her children on the phone about their textbooks.

Kaag may not back down easily, but she did when a religious fanatic showed up at her front door in 2022 with a burning torch. “That was the straw that broke the camel's back, I can tell you that. Then that will be enough for a while,” Kaag said. Since then, a police convoy with a small fortune in surveillance cameras has parked on the sidewalk in front of her house.

These threats made Kaag think about whether she should spend the rest of her life in the Netherlands. But the truth is also that her political success was short-lived. After a long and protracted formation, it joined Rutte's fourth and final government, which fell earlier this year. In the subsequent elections for the House of Representatives, Wilders won. D66, now led by Rob Gitten, lost 15 of the 24 seats.

Messy eviction

Not only the party, but also Kaag himself was in dire straits. After the chaotic evacuation of Dutch people from Afghanistan, she was forced to resign from her position as minister. As party leader, she was severely criticized when it emerged that she had not dealt with the MeToo case involving a party member in a sufficiently decisive manner.

She returned abroad again – in recent years, she was often asked for a diplomatic position abroad, but she still refused. Gaza is not unknown territory for Kaag. Years ago, I volunteered in the West Bank. Her husband, a Palestinian, was previously shadow minister in the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat. The couple also owns a home together in Jerusalem.

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