Immediately Iron Rita came out fighting, saying her most important opponent, Mark Rutte, doesn't keep to his word (as opposed to Rita. Just ask some Iranian homosexual asylum seekers, but I'll get to that in a moment). Additionally she revealed that she thinks she is the one that can rescue the Netherlands from a 'disastrous Left wing cabinet' (NL). That would be the unholy Labour, Socialist Party, GreenLeft alliance Wouter Bos (Labour leader) is fighting Femke Halsema (GreenLeft) and Jan Marijnissen (SP) off for, as I discussed earlier.
The main campaigning points Iron Rita wants to make hers are: Less taxes, less bureaucracy and more power to the police officer/nurses and doctors/teachers. As such these points seem lifted straight from Wilders' 10 point plan, which itself was heavily 'inspired' by the late, much lamented (by some) Pim Fortuyn(1).
Where in a not too distant past there weren't any real right wing candidates to chose from in parliamentary elections, the cup of the the conservative voter runneth over: Rita Verdonk (VVD), Joost Eerdmans (List Pim Fortuyn), Geert Wilders, Marco Pastors (erstwhile Livable Rotterdam alderman) in addition to the nominally right wing (but socially so) Christian Democrats. While this would indicate conservatives finally coming out of the closet after an almost 40-year era where being a committed conservative was politically equivalent to being an apostate in Afghanistan, the choices offered will, I fear, not be able to mobilize a large contingent of voters.
Even Iron Rita won't. She will, I estimate, conquer the top spot on the VVD list in the parliamentary elections easily. Rutte is too young and too wishy-washy for the average VVD voter. A bit like the Dutch equivalent to the Boy-King David Cameron, current leader of the British Conservative Party. And I fear with the same flaws. Plus Iron Rita has the uncanny capacities to send left wing Netherlands into ever new heights of unhinged frenzy, which is a great source of annoyed-looking amusement for those on the less left side if the Dutch political spectrum in general, and VVD voters in particular.
Just today Verdonk barely survived a motion of distrust lodged against het in parliament, after Syrian officials got a look at priviledged information on Syrian asylum seekers in the Netherlands. This was all the more poignant, because A) this was the second time something like this happened and B) both times she misinformed the Second Chamber (i.e. Parliament).
Used to be that misinforming Second Chamber was a political mortal sin, who's only possible consequence was stepping down. Under the reign of Purple (Labour, VVD and Social-Liberals a.k.a. D66 from 1994 - 2002) this good habit of old was eroded on the principle that a minister who says he/she's really, really sorry as sincerely as possible cannot be blamed for mismanagement of his/her department. But even by Purple standards doing so twice within a 6 month period is a bit rich.
One could make a very good case it actually wasn't Rita's fault. The Immigration and Naturalistion service (IND), directly resorting under Verdonk, has a reputation of being the epitomy of bureaucratic inefficiency, letter-of-the-law nightmares. Additionally it is damn near impossible to get rid of civil servants, especially the higher echelon ones, so a quick reorganization of the IND (overdue by about 15 years) is well-nigh impossible.
The law which Rita has to work with, and which she so diligently and ruthlessly upholds, is not of her own making. The irony is (as Snouck also observes) these laws were the fruits of Purple under the responsibility of now Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, a staunch Labourite famous for drinking tea with Moroccan racaille responsible for burning a white Dutch family out of their home. But still... One has to question the wisdom of sending back to their home countries Iranian homosexuals or Syrian Christians when a rather superficial google search pretty much spells out the snowball-in-hell chances of such people upon arrival.
And this is the point I get a bit doubtful about Iron Rita. Is she really as right-wing as she says she is? Or is it a pitbullian grip on law-and-order that the State is to provide, no matter what colour the State? In a piece aptly titled 'Lady with the Hammer' (NL unfortunately) Erik van Goor argues on the basis of statements by Verdonk, that Iron Rita in fact is extremely statist. In spite of her Liberal-conservatice affiliation she is not so much a champion of freedom and responsibility granted to citizens within the frame work of the law provided by the state, as a strict upholding of state legislation governing the private lives of citizens. That is probably also why she stops short of Wilders' (and Fortuyns) call to revert Article 1 of the Dutch constitution to its original(2).
Allow me to digress a little. Article 1 of the Dutch Constitutions states:
All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally
in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.
Erik van Goor zeros in on some statements on Article 1 made by Verdonk that show a deep commitment to the law as is, without any real thought devoted to what the law actually says. Moreover, in het statements she shows a deep commitment to the State 'tracking down and rooting out racism and discrimination where ever' it finds it. Nobody can argue with her stance against racism and discrimination. But one is perfectly correct in taking issue with her emphasis on the central role the State plays in all this.
As such I can't say I'll be voting for Rita when the time comes. Having said all the before, however, I am glad she's a contender. It is sure to stir things up a little. And maybe, just maybe, this is a first step in the change of thinking in the Netherlands that we need, now that the party generation of the 60's is finally waking up from their party and are looking at the litter of empty bottles, the stale beer stains and joint stubs left over on the day after the night before.
As an aside: Here's Geert Wilders in action (and in English). It's an interview on the BBC program 'Hard Talk', which isn't too much of a misnomer in this case. It's in Real Media (.ram) format. If it doesn't play for you try installing the Real Alternative player.
(1) Dutch Frenchman (or French Dutchman) Sylvain Ephimenco notes the similarities (NL) between Iron Rita and the contender for PM-ship 4 years ago. Not only in political message, but also in the chilling atmosphere surrounding both. At the very least Verdonk *does* have a security detail.
(2) Wilders was pretty critical of Verdonks 'watered down' program in an interview with Elseviers, also citing her refusal to revert Article 1 (among many other things. Link NL, I'm afraid)