The Dutch government collapsed in the early hours of Saturday morning over Labour's insistence that the Netherlands pull out of Afghanistan this year.The rather anodyne reporting on Dutchnews.nl does not really convey the political soap opera we've been witnessing over the last few days. In short: NATO has requested the Dutch to stay the course in Uruzgan (Afghanistan) beyond the end of 2010. The mission had already been extended (grudgingly) with the promise this would have been the last extension, and some other NATO member would take over as leading nation in Uruzgan.
After two days of intensive talks and a bitter parliamentary debate, it had become increasingly clear the gulf between prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and deputy prime minister Wouter Bos was too great to bridge.
Labour leader Bos stated earlier this week that he wanted a decision on Nato's request to the Netherlands to stay in Afghanistan at Friday's cabinet meeting. And that decision would have to be a no, he said repeatedly.
Balkenende said he wanted to keep all options open and was sticking to the March 1 deadline.
The letter sent by NATO containing the request, was drafted in close co-operation with key members of the cabinet, among them financial minister Wouter Bos and minister for Development Co-operation Koenders (both PvdA). However, when the letter was finally received, both PvdA ministers did a rather enigmatic about-face. This left the government (and in particular PM Jan Peter Balkenende and foreign minister Maxime Verhagen) with considerable egg on their face. Not to mention the damage this manoeuvre will do to the international reputation of the Netherlands. Numerous crisis meetings and an emergency session of parliament (where the cabinet was brutally savaged by the opposition) followed.
And thus the cabinet was split between socialists and christians. Cornered into a position where differences had become irreconcilable, the fourth Balkenende cabinet came to a premature end, leaving pristine our PM's record of presiding over governments that do not last to term.
So, what have we lost? Geert Wilders calls this cabinet the worst ever (NL). Remember, this was the cabinet that conspicuously grovelled at the feet of the Islamic world in the run-up to the release of Fitna. The socialists, already in for a savage beating (if the polls are to be believed) have made a coalition with christian democrats impossible for years to come. And Jan-Peter Balkenende, already termed the weakest PM since WW2 back in 2008, will probably not return. All in all not a great loss.
On Dutchnews.nl we find a nice overview of the procedure, now that the Dutch are without a government. The upshot (and arguably most important part) is that elections must be held within 83 days. Which means we are going to the booth some time this summer.
In the latest official poll Wilders' PVV and the CDA are vying for first place (CDA: 27 seats, PVV: 25 seats out of 150). Just blow them, liberal conservatives (VVD) and liberal progressives (D'66, in the Netherlands only half-jokingly referred to as Dhimmies'66) stand at 22 and 20 seats, respectively. As mentioned earlier, PvdA currently stands at half the seats the now have: 15 coming down from 30.
The Dutch right (CDA, PVV, VVD and TON) currently stand at 76 seats, which is a majority (just). But it still is a close run, with the left very much undefeated. Moreover, in the coming campaign, they will likely gain a few seats, even if it were on the basis of soothing but false promises. And if they really succeed in activating the immigrant vote all bets are off.
So, will Geert Wilders be the new prime minster? Making predictions is hard, especially where it concerns the future. But I don't think it likely. Wilders has already signalled his willingness to support a minority cabinet (NL) of CDA and VVD. In the present conditions of the highly polarized Dutch political landscape this makes eminent sense. Undeserved or not, Wilders is at the present time much, much too controversial. He still has to convince a sizeable portion of the population he can be an effective leader.
If Wilders were to become PM, with the mood in the Netherlands being what it is these days, he would not be able to govern effectively, I think. The extreme-left, having convinced themselves (and a goodly portion of the Dutch populace) that Wilders is evil incarnate, would be galvanized into action. He'd be running hither and yon, putting out brushfires. It'd be comparable to Sarah Palin taking the reigns of the US tomorrow. Irrespective of his competence (and I personally do not doubt those) he would find the Netherlands rather ungovernable.
But inevitably, come this summer, Wilders will be in a position to steer the Netherlands away from the post-democratic, cultural marxist abyss. Unless the polls are completely off base, the PVV will be a force to be reckoned with in parliament.
The next months will provide for plenty 'interesting times', possibly in the sense of the ancient Chinese proverb. The game is on!
(Thanks to Geenstijl for the illustration above)
[UPDATE001] Gates of Vienna brings up a good point: What of the trial? GoV correspondent HN:
I expect that this court case now will fade out. The court will no doubt find some kind of legal loophole to just postpone the case indefinitely without coming to a conclusion.Or an acquittal will now be expedited. One never knows.
[UPDATE002] If you want an impression of the quality of those that have governed the Dutch the last three years, this photo of the PvdA minsters and state-secretaries at their press conference provides the picture to replace a thousand (rather nasty and unfriendly) words.
[UPDATE003] Oh God, NO! The CDA board this afternoon decided that in the coming elections Jan Peter Balkenende will lead the CDA fraction (NL). Anybody remember the definition of insanity? After four tries, why would a fifth time be any different?