Richard de Mos acquitted – and now?
The acquittal of Richard de Mos and his fellow party member has caused quite a stir in the Netherlands. Can De Mos simply return to local politics now? And has the issue finally been settled?
Redemption at last
Richard de Mos and Rachid Guernaoui were aldermen of the city of The Hague, until the Public Prosecution Service (OM) charged them with being a member of a criminal organisation and official bribery. As a result of the charges, they were forced to resign from their positions on the city council. Op 21 April, The Hague District Court absolved the former aldermen: they were both acquitted after years of waiting.
Their acquittal raises many questions about how to proceed. Professor of Local Government, Geerten Boogaard, shared his views on the matter on Omroep West.
Richard de Mos and Rachid Guernaoui both want to return to politics: after their acquittal they together immediately called for new municipal elections. Boogaard explains that elections are not a realistic option: 'Things work differently in local politics compared to national politics. If the Dutch cabinet steps down, the government has the constitutional right to dissolve the chamber and call new elections. However, an interim dissolution of the city council followed by interim council elections never happens. Also, it’s not regulated at all who may dissolve the council: the government? the municipal executive? the municipal council? The legislature would then have to do that. The legislature in this case is national politics’.
De Mos back on city council?
Another question is whether De Mos can return to the city council. Boogaard is very clear on this: ‘It’s certainly a possibility.’ The question, though, is how exactly? Boogaard was involved in the formation of the current city council as informateur. The Party of De Mos and Guernauoi, Hart voor Den Haag, was excluded from the formation talks at that time because of the ongoing criminal case. Now the charges have been dropped, it would be understandable if they were invited to the table again. That could also be a good tactical move says Boogaard: 'People might say that if you let him (De Mos, eds.) sit on the opposition benches, there’ll be no holding him back now he’s been acquitted. And he wasn’t exactly what you would call restrained before. In that light, you might wonder whether it would be a smart move to show him the door again.'
Possibility to appeal
Incidentally, the gentlemen in question cannot yet be entirely reassured that the matter has now finally been settled. The OM can still appeal the ruling and it has already said it will do so. Boogaard feels that the OM would be making a mistake if it proceeded: ‘I think enough is enough. For three and a half years, I’ve said we should let the OM show whether they’ve found a smoking gun. Now, it turns out there isn't one. It’s time to free the city of The Hague of this case.'
Find out more?
The Omroep West article (in Dutch) can be read here.
Photographer: Hansjörg Keller via Unsplash.