@ALDEParty Congress 2017 – day 1… a beauty contest in the city of tulips

It was dark, and cold… and far too early. But there was a delegation meeting at 8 a.m., and attendance was compulsory, so I dragged myself out of bed, and was in the right place, somewhere in the vast complex that is the RAI Congress Centre on the south side of Amsterdam. There was much to discuss.

Firstly, there was a delegation to organise, and jobs to assign. For someone has to be responsible for ensuring that our view on each of the resolutions was heard, that our decision on how to vote on every amendment was recorded for transmission to the delegation for Sunday’s voting session. Luckily, we’ve got some very experienced people, so that was easily done.

Next, the Bureau elections, due to take place tomorrow. With one only candidate to be President, it was clear that the incumbent, Hans van Baalen, from VVD, was safe for another two years. Whilst yes, there must be a ballot, why would you vote against him unless you thought he was utterly useless? And, actually, I think that he’s been quite effective.

The Vice-Presidential contest was rather more complex, with seven candidates for six vacancies. One of the candidates is our very own Ros Scott, running for re-election after her first term, and the delegation is expected to vote for her without question. But what to do about the other six candidates?

There are five incumbents, including Ros.

Timmy Dooley, from Fianna Fáil, has served one term, and been a good friend to the Liberal Democrats over recent years. A regular attendee at our Federal Conferences, he knows the Party well, and has made a good impression.

Ilhan Kyuchyuk is from our Bulgarian sister party, the Movement for Rights and Freedom. They’re predominantly the party of the Turkish minority community and he is the first Muslim to serve on the ALDE Party Bureau as best I can tell. I personally like him a lot, and he and Ros get on well. He’s hard working and enthusiastic.

Marcus Löning, from the German FDP, has been around for a while. He had been a Vice-President some years back, retired to focus on Liberal International, but then returned two years ago. He’s a human rights expert, well respected and influential.

Frederic Federley was the last candidate elected two years ago, after a difficult campaign, and comes from Centerpartiet, Sweden. He’s a member of the European Parliament, as is Ilhan, and is passionate in his liberal values.

The two newcomers are Annelou van Egmond, from D’66 in the Netherlands. Annelou describes herself as not being a politician, but as a campaigner, considered to be one of the best around at getting people elected, and has helped parties in neighbouring countries to succeed, including the FDP.

And last but not least, Joanna Schmidt from Novoczesna, our recently formed Polish member party (she’s their Vice President). We didn’t know very much about her, as her campaign had been fairly low key, and she has not had a record in participation at ALDE Party events previously.

Who to cast our votes for? Each delegate has up to six votes to be cast for different candidates, although they don’t all have to be used.

There are a number of arguments. The Bureau needs better gender balance, and even if all three women were to be elected, the balance would be six men and four women, which is an argument for voting for Annelou and Joanna. On the other hand, Fianna Fáil, and the FDP are good friends, we work closely with Centerpartiet, and Ilhan offers youth and ethnic diversity.

It is all very difficult, and so it was decided to give the delegation a relatively free hand, with the exception of Ros.

I explained how the ballot now works, as the ALDE Party has switched its voting system – no, it’s still not STV, but it is a bit better than it was, and gave a short briefing on the draft budget (more funding for the European Women’s Academy, plus additional staff to support member parties in the run-up to the European Parliamentary elections in 2019).

We were done. The sun had risen. There were speeches to take in, policy debates to engage in, and conversations to be had…

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Party’s Federal International Relations and of our delegation to the ALDE Party Congress. He’ll be covering the Congress for Liberal Democrat Voice in between sessions.

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One Comment

  • Hampstead voter 2nd Dec '17 - 3:50pm

    Let’s hope there’s one less Tulip in British politics before too long.

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