Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Circling the Wagons

As most readers already know, the Dutch government fell apart last week, which means that there will be a general election in a few months. One would expect the popularity of Geert Wilders to guarantee his party (the PVV) an influential role in whatever government emerges after the elections — if the Netherlands were a healthy democracy.

But the Netherlands is not a healthy democracy. At least some of the major parties that make up the permanent Dutch ruling oligarchy are already closing ranks and attempting to form a cordon sanitaire around the PVV and thus deny it a voice in the future government.

Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated a pair of articles on the topic. First, from De Trouw:

(Resigned) State Secretary: No party should co-operate with PVV

The resigned State Secretary of European Affairs, Frans Timmermans [PvdA, Socialists] recommends that parties that do not want to govern with the PVV should put their heads together. As a group they should prevent Geert Wilders’ party from gaining influence in the government.

The PVV might form a new Cabinet [government] or support one, as Wilders has indicated. To the resigned State Secretary Frans Timmermans, it is paramount that both options should not become reality. In his eyes, the Netherlands is at a watershed, because Wilders wants to “shunt population groups to the side”.

“It would be a historic moment if Wilders should succeed in breaking through into the country’s leadership’,” declares Frans Timmermans. According to him, the PVV goes way beyond the former LPF of Pim Fortuyn. The latter found that immigrants had to adapt, while Wilders focuses on assimilation, the PvdA member states. In the latter case, they must abandon much more of their identity.

CDA [Christian Democrats] and VVD [center right], according to Timmermans, should make it clear right now what their position is on cooperation with the PVV. These two parties, in his eyes, are still “enormously foggy” on the issue. There is no question of a cordon sanitaire against the PVV though, Timmermans finds. It is in his eyes not undemocratic using democratic means to prevent certain ideas from gaining influence in a government.

(Resigned) Vice-PM Wouter Bos [PvdA, Socialists] repeated after his meeting with Queen Beatrix that the PvdA after the elections does not want to be part of a government with the PVV. He also said that it would reflect well on the CDA party leader Jan Peter Balkenende if he would also bar out such cooperation.

But Wouter Bos already hinted this ten days ago. “Actually,” Bos said, “there should be an alliance of all parties that state ahead of the elections that they are not to be willing to form a coalition in cooperation with the PVV of Geert Wilders.”

According to Syp Wynia in Elsevier.nl, this is also an attempt to split the CDA, that has both an electorate sympathetic towards Wilders as well as a multicultural left-wing-leaning electorate. The anti-Wilders movement within the CDA has for several years been led by former trade union leader Doekle Terpstra [“Wilders must be stopped”], who is backed by former CDA-leaders like Ruud Lubbers and Elco Brinkman.

From Spits Nieuws:
- - - - - - - - -
Anger at PvdA (Socialists) about cordon sanitaire

The call by the PvdA not to co-operate in a new government with the PVV of Geert Wilders, was not well received. The CDA [Christian Democrats] reject the call, which Wilders considers a cordon sanitaire. Wilders: “The voters will penalize them for this.”

CDA-faction leader Pieter van Geel said: “It is very unwise to exclude each other in advance. That does not fit well in a democracy. We exclude no one. We do not want a cordon sanitaire, which Mr. Bos (PvdA) now seems to be aiming at.”

PVV-leader Geert Wilders considers the appeal by the Social Democrats to be a cordon sanitaire. He calls the plan “an insult to the electorate” and “undemocratic”.

According Geert Wilders, the call by the PvdA further shows “the arrogance of the PvdA [Socialists]. “It is still a big governor’s-clique. The PvdA thinks it is still in power,” Wilders added.

VH notes: The elections for the Dutch parliament will be held Wednesday, June 9, 2010.

And, already in English, from Reuters:

Dutch Parties Tussle Over Approach to Far Right

Labour figure calls on others to keep Wilders out of govt

AMSTERDAM, Feb 23 (Reuters) — A Dutch Labour politician’s call to keep far-right leader Geert Wilders out of a new government has stirred anger among other parties who consider the move undemocratic and likely to drive voters towards him.

Wilders and his Freedom Party have been a focus of debate since the Dutch cabinet collapsed on Saturday, as the election which could be held as early as May will be a key opportunity for the anti-immigration group to increase its influence after a stunning success at European elections last year.

Frans Timmermans, a member of the Labour party and minister for European affairs, said on Monday that Labour would refuse to govern in coalition with Wilders’ party, and he called on other parties to consider a similar approach.

“The Labour party stands for a completely different Holland than the party of Wilders, and for that reason we cannot be in a government with him,” a spokeswoman for the Labour party said.

“He (Timmermans) dared other parties to think the same thing. Do they want to be in a government that segregates people by race and religion?”

Wilders has described the call as an “arrogant” attempt to ringfence his Freedom Party (PVV) and said it was an insult to the democratic system, telling Dutch media “the voter will seek punishment for this”.

Members of other parties have also described the move as undemocratic and warned that it could push voters into the arms of Wilders, considered a maverick among the political elite.

While the socialist SP said it would not consider working in coalition with Wilders’ party due to their policy differences, it criticised Timmermans nonetheless.

“This is unbelievably stupid. What Timmermans is saying is undemocratic, the voter can surely make up their own mind,” said SP leader Agnes Kant in the Dutch daily Trouw. “Wilders can now say there is a barrier being built around him.”

Members of other parties also dismissed the calls, with the head of the Liberal VVD party Mark Rutte telling Dutch radio he was not ruling anyone out as a potential coalition partner and Christian Democrat party chairman Pieter van Geel describing the comments as foolish.

Poised for Gains

Wilders’ party comes first or second in most polls for the next election, and could win up to 24 seats in the 150-seat Dutch Parliament after becoming the second biggest Dutch party in the EU Parliament last year.

So far the CDA and VVD have left the door open to be in a coalition with Wilders. But in recent polls, just 27 percent of respondents said their reaction to a combination of the three in a cabinet would be ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’.

Wilders, who believes that Islam is a violent religion and what he calls the Islamisation of Europe must stop, has consistently challenged the established order with his ferocious debating style, often accusing the government of cowardice.

[…]


Hat tip for the Reuters article: KGS.

12 comments:

blogagog said...

So there's no chance that PVV members will get 51% of the vote all by themselves? Too bad :(.

Godffrey said...

Why not just combine all the parties that aren't the PVV into the Anti Wilders Party (party motto: "unity through hatred of Geert").

filthykafir said...

I simply do not understand the Dutch system of government formation and action and would be most grateful for information from GoV readers who are knowledgeable.

Could a cabinet simply ignore 25% or 30% of the elected representatives and still govern effectively? Is it not likely that PVV and at least one other minority party would cooperate to frustrate the "legislation" of other parties or, even, pass legislation of their own?

I wallow in ignorance; please throw me a lifeline.

costin said...

Here is an interesting post about what Wilders could do and what his chances would be from Klein Verzet.

Anonymous said...

Even if the PVV rises to power, won't the opposition parties, who would likely still control the judiciary, simply use the EU Framework Decision to imprison them?

Anonymous said...

Wilders getting the PM position is irrelevant in itself. The PVV needs a majority in the parliament on the important legislation - that sadly all the other parties don't like.

So yes, why shouldn't they be able to exclude 25-30% of the representatives? You can pass things with less than that in Europe - you don't need in the US 60 senators out of 100. Maybe the Dutch system is different, but I doubt it.

And it's funny how the left uses the term a different Netherlands. Well, it's not like you can move a different people there and keep it Dutch. It's either the Netherlands or not. Being for a certain Netherlands is being for the Dutch people, not for some abstract stupid idea. And yes, I want a Dutch government that elects Dutch people to lead it - the Netherlands is the country of the Dutch people, not of the Muslims or Moroccans. Lately, the left's talk is making me puke with all their crap codewords like social cohesion, inclusiveness... lol

Robin Shadowes said...

I want Netherlands to remain Nethelands not to become Hollandistan. That is what is going to happen if you switch people out. However, the topp brass dutch elite seems to to be of the opinion that Hollandistan is just fine. No even better than Netherlands so they're hell-bent on making that change whatever the natve dutch likes it or not.

ENGLISHMAN said...

The same is true in England,we want England to remain English,but sadly the same issue is enacted all across europe,if any-one complains about having a foreign murderer living next door he is a racist,if he takes democratic action,is elected to council/government,his voters are immediately disenfranchised by the other parties,who refuse to sit next to,talk to,even tell him when the next meeting is too take place,and these are regarded as the forces of "democracy",with c democracy like this who needs fascism.

Henrik R Clausen said...

Randian, in (the not very likely) case that PVV forms government, their ministers would control the Judiciary directly. If any judge or other civil servant misuses his power, he would have to answer to a PVV minister :)

Anyway, they would more likely simply repeal § 137, Lex Wilders.

Anonymous said...

If any judge or other civil servant misuses his power, he would have to answer to a PVV minister

Misuse such as trying to prosecute PVV ministers? Remember that it doesn't matter the investigation is fraudulent and made for the sole purpose of destroying you politically, outright quashing investigations into yourself is considered corrupt in most first-world countries.

Anyway, they would more likely simply repeal Section 137

The Dutch government can repeal EU Framework Decisions? I'm not talking about opposition parties getting back at the PVV by using current Dutch law, I'm talking about them doing so using EU-mandated law, which supercedes Dutch law.

Anonymous said...

randian, sadly no, the members states can't supercede the EU framework, but the Dutch can begin to ignore it and I doubt the EU will do much about it considering they have no army and most Europeans hate them. lol

VH said...

@ filthykafir: The Netherlands uses a proportional representation: the percentage of votes = percentage of the 150 seats in Parliament.

To investigate which parties are willing to cooperate to form a majority (coalition) government ("Cabinet"), an "informateur" is appointed by the Queen after she has consulted the fraction-leaders. Once this is investigated, a "formateur" (a negotiator or "matchmaker") is appointed to negotiate the final details. This process often takes months.

In a poll today in the city of Almere (near Amsterdam), the PVV though is at length the largest party with a stunning 30% (!). In Parliament that would mean ca. 50 seats out of 150.
However, to form a government even with such a splendid result, the "informateur" would still need to find coalition-willing parties to form a majority government with the PVV.

Could a cabinet simply ignore 25% or 30% of the elected representatives

Yes, they can ignore them, but that may have impact on the electorate and result in a loss of votes in the next election.
Furthermore, in the Netherlands, there are not really individually elected representatives, but elected parties ("party list system": the party decides who is on the list, not the electorate)

A non-government party may indeed also propose laws and policy on its own or with others and seek majority vote per issue in Parliament, as you suggest. The government on the other hand may instruct its parties not to support such a proposal. Again, this may have impact on the next election results.

All in all, with such a proportional representation with many parties it is quite complex to form an effective government. It is even said that this system leads to parties ever more "merging". In the Netherlands most parties have slowly become more or less "Progressivist".*

The "party list system" within a proportional representation also lessens the influence of the electorate on individual parliamentarians. Still, it is quite something in a monarchy where The People are not even allowed to elect their local Mayor:)

* Also in a "plurality voting system" this is the case [video].