Balkenende government falls over Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It seems that this morning Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende is visiting the Queen to signal the resignation of the cabinet. The smallest of the three parties in the centre-right government, D66 with six seats, has signaled that it would not continue to support the coalition if Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk retains her portfolio. The cabinet refused, so now they have to resign.

The main coalition partners, the CDA and the VVD (Christian Democrats and Liberals), blame D66 for taking umbrage at a minister who was just doing her job. D66 complains that it did not intend to force a crisis on the government, it just wanted Verdonk to resign.

At the centre of this is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms Verdonk is something of a controversial character in her own right, but her handling of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s immigration status appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. According to Trouw, Ayaan Hirsi Ali finds it “sad” that the cabinet fell over her immigration status.

It’s not clear whether there will be an election forthwith. It seems that Balkenende may be able to form a minority government with just the two main coalition partners, although the lifespan of such a government might be short. Otherwise, Dutch law calls for elections within three months. Polls suggest the centre-right parties do not have the support to come back into government, but it’s close enough that the election campaign might make a difference.

Update: Guy has a much more extensive post on the subject at A Few Euros More, which I didn’t see when I posted this.

10 thoughts on “Balkenende government falls over Ayaan Hirsi Ali

  1. Placing Ayaan at the centre might be giving her too much credit.
    D66 has been threatening to quit numerous times in the past three years over several issues, without actually doing so: there was the issue of elected rather than the present appointed mayors and the military mission to Afganistan among other things. During all that, one of their two MP’s in the cabinet resigned and their chairman stepped down. On top of that, the proces of choosing a new chairman was messy and pretty childish campaign.
    In order to keep at least a shred of credibility and not to alienate the few remaining voters, they had to take a stand at some point. But it basically could have been any point.

  2. Jobs for party members. They have about four due paying members so it should’t be that hard.
    They still fuck up though

  3. “Just a stupid question, out of curiosity: is D66 supposed to stand for something?”

    Charly’s reply seems about right too, but the name D’66 stands for Democrats ’66 as the party was founded in Oktober of the year 1966. I do not know which reply fits your question better, Charly’s or mine, but just in case you now have both 🙂

  4. D66 stands for the right of the individual to live free; to develop in their own way and to live by their own standards and values. To properly do so you need a just society with things like good health care and high-level easily accesible education.

    Which is why they have always been forefighters for issues like euthanasia and same-sex marriage. Citizens being more involved in government is another hot issue – referenda, elected mayor, elected prime-minister and such.

  5. D66 is the (only ;-)) liberal party in the Netherlands, David. The Netherlands has the same situation as Denmark, that is: two parties calling themselves liberal, with one (the immigration minister’s VVD) actually law-and-order, small-state with a nationalist streak, and the other (D66) still free-market but more into personal freedom issues, education, Europe, the environment etc. The legalisation of gay marriage and euthanasia were both introduced and realised by D66. Like its Scandinavian counterparts, D66 calls itself social-liberal. It is also close to the British Liberal-Democrats, much more so than VVD. In Swedish terms, it is somewhere between C and Fp, but close to both.

  6. Thanks for your answers, I was referring mostly to the name. It’s rather odd to have numbers on political parties, at least in Spain it is. Politically I suspect D66 has no analogue in Spanish politics, as the right pro-market parties are conservative and religious and would never support something like euthanasia, and the left is obviously not pro-market (although the socialists aren’t really socialists either).

  7. “It’s rather odd to have numbers on political parties”

    Another example is the German Green Party. Its proper name: “Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen”.
    “Bündnis 90” was a East German civil rights movement founded in 1990 and later merged with the West German Green Party “Die Grünen”.
    At the time, it was perceived a smart move to keep “Bündnis 90” in the name so as to demonstrate the party had a cause in East Germany as well.
    On the downside: The party-name is very cumbersome and has a rather backward-looking touch. (Anyway, it didn’t reach it’s strategic aim: The green party is spectacularly weak in East Germany).

  8. Hi David – sorry, I thought you were another David, hence the references to Swedish politics… 🙂
    You are right, I would not know of a close equivalent to D66 in Spanish politics – or anywhere else in southern Europe, with the possible exception of the Italian Radicali. The Radicali are definitely quirkier and more activist though than D66, which tends on a rather academic and quiet part of the electorate.

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