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.

Hirsi Ali’s shadow brings down Dutch cabinet

The Dutch government has handed in its resignation after coalition partner D66 withdrew its support. Lousewies van der Laan, chairwoman of D66, had asked for the resignation of VVD minister Rita Verdonk because of her handling of the Hirsi Ali naturalisation case. The initial vote of censure* by Femke Halsema (GroenLinks-GreenLeft) that inspired Van der Laan’s resignation plea received no majority in the Dutch Lower Chamber and Rita Verdonk refused to quit on her own. D66 cabinet members Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Alexander Pechtold and Medy van der Laan consequently resigned and, by doing so, pulled the plug on the whole cabinet.
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Magan moves to US

Controversial “Dutch” politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose true surname is Magan and not Ali, is reported to move to the United States where she will be working for The American Enterprise Institute. She is currently embroiled in a scandal because she had lied about her past to obtain a Dutch passport:

Hirsi Ali said she came clean about the lies she told to get asylum when she joined the Liberal Party (VVD) in 2002. Yet prominent VVDer (and now EU Commissioner) Neelie Kroes described Hirsi Ali as a person who had lived through five civil wars in Somalia. This was not true as Hirsi Ali lived in Kenya for over 10 years before coming to the Netherlands.

A spokesperson for the VVD said the party had been aware that Hirsi Ali lied about her name and date of birth when seeking asylum. This was not seen as a barrier to her joining the party or becoming one of its MPs.

These lies, in short, were already public knowledge. Way back in 2003, for example, the BBC published a story on Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Magan with the correct version of the facts, including her move to Kenya and stop-over in Germany.

The truly salient part of the story is, however, this:

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Friday that Hirsi Ali need not worry about facing repercussions for what she did 14 years ago. But she repeated she would have deported Hirsi Ali if she had been the minister back in 1992. “I don’t like lies,” Verdonk said on Friday.

Remember, Verdonk now plays tough on illegal immigrants. Yesterday evening, Monday 15th, Verdonk is reported to have made a phone call to Hirsi Ali, her colleague in the VVD party, saying that Hirsi may very well not be Dutch after all because, in 1997, she lied about her application for Dutch citizenship… Gotta love politics.

BTW, Hirsi Ali has declared to be shocked by all this, in The New York Times.

UPDATE, Saturday May 20th: Verdonk stated that Hirsi will get her Dutch passport back. The Dutch news story can be found here. Apparently they want to keep the VVD from splitting into two camps because of this affair. Huge pressure was piled on VVD member Verdonk to compromise and retract her earlier decision to strip Hirsi of her Dutch citizenship.