Three days ago, an article on Bloomberg’s “Business Week” website reported that the Dutch government had fallen. Having developed a working relationship with a Dutch resident named Maarten van Dop, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Television Journalism, I decided to look into the matter more closely. In doing so, I discovered a number of striking similarities between the Netherlands and the U.S. regarding political party divisions and the rising tide of dissent among voters. Ultimately, I asked Maarten to provide an assessment, as a journalist and resident, of what really happened to cause the government’s demise. Not only did he graciously consent, he also pointed out that the United States of America appears to be headed in the same direction and urges all Americans to pay close attention to the events taking place in his country.
The following was authored by Maarten van Dop
“We were never in Iraq!”
The Dutch government supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They accomplished the latter mainly by mouth (‘politically’), and the first by a significant material and personal contribution. About a month ago, a report was presented on Dutch involvement in the invasion of Iraq. The report was supposedly independent, but officially commissioned by the government last year. A very unwilling government was forced to concede and allow an investigation to take place, thanks to pressure of an altered political constellation. The conclusions of the report did not mince matters or words: the Iraq war was illegal for lack of an international mandate. It went on to say that information was manipulated to serve political goals and parliament was not properly informed. Normally, this would be sufficient to make any prime minister secede his reign, especially when it’s still the same person. But the extraordinary circumstances induced by the economic recession gave this coalition excuse to remain seated, much to the dismay of the opposition.
“We’ll be getting the hell out of Afghanistan!”
The next topic for debate for this coalition was Afghanistan. The United Nations has requested the Netherlands to prolong Dutch presence in the southern province of Uruzgan. President Obama and Vice-President Biden have been appealing to reconsider a decision already made: this year, 2010, Holland withdraws its people from Afghanistan. The two major fractions in government stand opposite one another regarding this request. And now it seems the party opposing prolongation, has pulled the plug. It seems that way because, in actuality, a compromise had already been found, which was leave Uruzgan, but stay in Afghanistan; no more fighting missions, only reconstruction and facilitation for the Afghans. Ironically, this time around it was the economic recession that urged this coalition to bail out. A report from the National Bureau for Statistics showed a projection for the economy that made participating parties realize there was nothing left to be gained up until the next official elections in 2011.
Contradictions & Compromises
Holland is a land of contradictions. Amsterdam is our capital, but our seat of government is The Hague. The Queen is our Head of State, but she is not our leader. Think that’s weird? Ask about our policies on drugs. Or rather: don’t. It all stems from a system of compromise, which we proudly refer to as ‘Poldermodel’ - wherein everything is open to discussion and can be thusly solved. Every contestant is rewarded their share of the stake, but nobody gets the whole deal. Those who wheel more than they deal, end up on top. The Netherlands has a multi-party political system. The current coalition, which became an interim group last week, consists of three different parties. Until the 1990’s, governing coalitions used to consist of two parties that held a workable majority of representatives in parliament. A coalition would either be center-right (Christian Democrats & Liberals) or center-left (Christian Democrats & Socialists). All other parties were relegated to the opposition. However, the Dutch political landscape is becoming increasingly splintered, and the next coalition might even have more than three partners. The more people get to have a say, the less efficient decision-making will be. It’s the conundrum of democracy. Simultaneously, the people crave ‘strong leadership’ as the political spectrum becomes increasingly dispersed. Democracy depends as much on the competence of the eligible as on the competence of the electorate.
Dutch Tea (Party)
Disapproval for the “Poldermodel’ gave way to the rise of Pim Fortuyn, who was considered by many to be an outsider. Fortuyn entered the political arena in 2002, and the world watched in amazement as he single-handedly went from virtual unknown to heading in the polls in the upcoming election. He was shot dead a week before the election took place. His party, LPF, went on to become the second largest political party in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the party was in complete disarray and the coalition collapsed after a mere 80 days of governance. Ever since Fortuyn’s murder, hosts of wannabe ‘strong leaders’ have graced the Dutch political scene. This time, the Party for Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, is heading the polls. The PVV is the equivalent of the rapidly expanding Tea Party in the Americas. If he wins big enough, and is not killed, he might well draw up to the ruling coalition. Sarah Palin would probably refer to him as a rogue politician. Thriving on nationalism and xenophobia, his main issue is to oppose the perceived ‘Islamizing’ of the Netherlands. Watch well, American Tea Party patriots. What you’re looking for is someone similar to this enigmatic leader. You’re looking for someone who will ‘unite the nation’, and we’ve got loads of those on sale.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende photo source: Maarten van Dop
Permission: Maarten van Dop