Verdonk will not yield. And rightly so: The amnesty the left wing of parliament is seeking is about people who've exhausted every possible avenue of obtaining citizenship, have been found wanting every step of the way, but stayed nonetheless. Thus, they broke the law. They cheated and are about to be rewarded for that.
Moreover, despite the claim by the left that we are talking about a mere 26,000 illegals currently residing in the Netherlands, equality before the law would force the government to review the cases of every illegal arriving in the Netherlands before April 2001, but have been expelled since. Potentially we are talking about 200,000 asylum seekers. That is about two moderate cities in the Netherlands worth of people. Additionally, there are the legal intricacies of having to offer citizenship to people who've been removed from the Netherlands up to 10-12 years ago and have since built a life elsewhere.
On top of this the current government is demissionary, after the resignation of liberal democrat (D66) ministers back in June. Thus this government is not allowed to make any significant changes in policy (since it has no mandate), which is what the motion on the stay of expulsion is asking for. Hence the motion to instate a general amnesty, accepted by the slightest of minorities in Second Chamber, has been put aside by the government as 'unenforcable'. But the left will have none of this.
Thus it was that the left sought to force their will through a motion of disapproval against Verdonk. With that it seems all but inevitable that Verdonk is stepping down. And with her all other VVD (liberal conservative) ministers have pledged to step down, gutting the cabinet that was a demissionary minority cabinet to begin with.
This is truly a one-off in Dutch parliamentary history. How do you dismiss a cabinet that's already dismissed? Dutch state law taken to extremes has one minister forming her majesty's government, since the head of state is not allowed to govern on her (or his) own. But how is a cabinet of one going to improve stability is really beyond me. Why is the left driving this relatively minor thing to such extremes? Flexing their muscles, or is it just being giddy with the new political balance of power?
One thing's for sure, they're not making the Netherlands any more stable. Wouter Bos titled his book 'This country can do so much better'. But for the moment it is not clear what he actually has in mind when he's saying that. One would think a country needs to be governable, before trying to make it 'better'. As actions speak louder then words it seems that the first priority of the left is to bring down the current government without giving a single thought about what could replace it. There is a historical precedent to this kind of politics. But modelling the Netherlands after the Weimar Republic would, from historical evidence, not be such a great improvement, I think.
[INSTANT UPDATE 0:12am] The PM just announced that Verdonk will be taken off Immigration. Minister of Justice Hirsch-Ballin will be taking over those tasks. The VVD ministers will stay on, allbeit grumbling and muttering. At least we still have a government. And that's a good thing. Given the prospects of the formation, we will have it for a while to come. Who exactly is behind this miracle save is not clear. But for the moment I am actually proud of our PM.
[UPDATE001] I edited the post above somewhat. In the rush to write the previous version some factual errors crept in. The Bos motion mentioned in the beginning was not in fact about any amnesty, but called for a stay of expulsion for those still in the Netherlands in preparation of a general amnesty that the entire left is adament will be part of the new cabinets policy.My apologies.
My personal feelings are mixed on this issue. Actually, in today's column in Trouw Ephimenco puts those into words quite succintly:
Yes, Verdonk is a failed putchist with the agility of a building ravaged by concrete rot. Yes, the primacy of a parliamentary democracy is that the will of the majority, including disapproving motions, be respected. Yes, children that have integrated here and speak the language better then your servant should not be kicked across the border. But... No, a calculating opposition leader, who didn't do his job for four years but tries to overtake time after an electoral beating, must be treated with suspicion. No, a majority that is made up of vindictive feelings should not endanger an extremely complex formation process for the sake of particularistic payback.And thus any feelings of sympathy the average dutch might have for the 26,000 is sacrificed on an altar of petty political infighting. "Penny-wise but pound-foolish" is probably the best way to decribe Dutch politics these days.
What remains is the glowing red of shame when taking in the view of a bankrupt kingdom where rigid ego's, vengeful amateurs and sectarian parties lead the dance.