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23 Sep, 2020 15:12

US envoy to Netherlands accused of ELECTION MEDDLING after hosting 'fundraiser' for right-wing party at embassy

US envoy to Netherlands accused of ELECTION MEDDLING after hosting 'fundraiser' for right-wing party at embassy

The US ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, has been accused of "election meddling" by local politicians after hosting an event – reportedly a fundraiser – for a right-wing party at the embassy.

The 'party' was hosted by the ambassador on September 10, and was first brought to light by Dutch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer on Monday.According to the report, the event had some 30 to 40 guests, including a large group of members from the right-wing Forum for Democracy (FvD) political party, as well as "wealthy entrepreneurs" – some of whom have already donated to the FvD.

The guests reportedly received an email from the embassy, calling for them to join the event "at the invitation of Forum for Democracy and Pete Hoekstra." Moreover, the message allegedly urged the invitees to forward any further questions to Joyce Vastenhouw – the FvD fundraising boss.

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The revelation caused an explosive reaction in the Netherlands, with many politicians accusing the US envoy of meddling in the country's internal affairs.

"Of course this should not have happened," Dutch MP for the GroenLinks party told NOS broadcaster. "This is interference in our elections."

Sven Koopmans, an MP for the ruling People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), has called for an inquiry into the event. Koopmans himself was previously hosted by the US ambassador for a Q&A session.

"A fundraising event at the embassy is something else and not desirable," Koopmans said.

Hoekstra's actions may have violated the Vienna Accord, which sets out rules for diplomacy and explicitly forbids envoys from interfering in the affairs of their host countries. "Text and explanation are needed here," Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, an MP for the Democrats 66 party, said of the US embassy event.

The embassy has dismissed the allegations that it staged a fundraiser, insisting that it was merely a meeting of diplomats and local political parties, which it regularly holds. Such events are needed to establish "dialogue with people and parties with a range of views," a spokesperson for the mission told local media.

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Those who actually attended the gathering gave a different account. An unnamed businessman told De Groene that the event resembled an "informal" launch of the party's election campaign. FvD politician Wybren van Haga, who was also invited, said the meeting was actually a gathering of his party's "inner circle."

The FvD party, standing in the 2021 general election on a right-wing, Euroskeptic platform, was founded in late 2016. It first participated in the 2017 Dutch general elections, securing two seats in the country's House of Representatives. Last year, it won the most seats in the provincial elections.

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