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08 July 2010

Dutch Establishment Rejects Election Results

0132989950085.jpgDutch Queen Beatrix does not like Member of Parliament Geert Wilders, the winner of the recent elections in the Netherlands; she is attempting to prevent the formation of a right-wing coalition that includes him

The maneuvers to exclude Mr. Wilders have angered ordinary Dutchmen. Asked to comment on television, many voters could be heard complaining, "What is the use of going to vote when we are not listened to anyway?"

June's general elections in the Netherlands resulted in a clear victory for the right. The Dutch Constitution, however, grants the Queen the power to appoint a person (or persons) of her choice to initiate and direct negotiations for the formation of a government coalition. By appointing the Labor politician Herman Tjeenk Willink to the position of formation facilitator, the Queen has made it clear that she wants a coalition that includes the Labor Party and excludes the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.

An opinion poll taken last week shows that the Christian-Democrats would fall to the historic low level of 17 seats, while Mr. Wilders' PVV would become the largest party in the country with 30 seats, ahead of the Liberals (28 seats) and Labor (27 seats).

Following the elections, Mr. Wilders said: "We want to be part of the new government. More security, less crime, less immigration, less Islam – that is what the Netherlands has chosen … I don't think other parties can ignore us." He seems, however, to have overlooked the power of the monarch.

For months, rumors have been circulating that the 72-year old Queen has postponed resigning in favor of her son, 43-year old Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange, until after the 2010 elections because she wants to thwart Mr. Wilders' governmental ambitions. Although unelected, the Dutch monarch plays the decisive role in the government formation, and can easily bypass the electorate. This week, Afshin Ellian, a 44-year old Dutch professor of law at Leiden University, criticized the Queen for her role in obstructing a right-wing government.

Prof. Ellian came to the Netherlands in 1989 as a political refugee from Iran. He is a human rights activist and one of the Netherlands' most outspoken critics of Islam. "Sometimes one learns more about political and constitutional realities in two weeks than other times in decades," Ellian wrote on his blog. "Queen Beatrix," he said," has lost her impartiality in the eyes of many right-wing Dutchmen, The major winners of the past elections, namely the VVD and the PVV, have not been able to play a decisive role in the formation of a new cabinet."

On June 9, 2010, the Liberal VVD became the largest party in the Netherlands. It won 31 of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives, compared to 22 in the 2006 general election. The largest winner of the election, however, was the PVV, the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, which won 24 seats, compared to only 9 in 2006. The parties of the resigning center-left coalition of Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende suffered considerable losses. Mr. Balkenende's own Christian-Democrat CDA fell to 21 seats from 41; the Labor Party fell to 30 seats from 33; and the Christian Union (CU) fell to 5 seats from 6.

Theoretically, the electorate's major swing to the right allows VVD-leader Mark Rutte to form a government with Mr. Wilders' PVV and the Christian-Democrats. This coalition would have 76 of the 150 seats and could count on the support of the small right-wing Protestant party SGP (2 seats) and perhaps even the CU (5 seats). Such a VVD-PVV-CDA coalition is that preferred by Mr. Rutte and also by the Dutch electorate. As this coalition would, however, be critical of immigration, multiculturalism, Islam, and the centralization projects of the European Union, while also being one the most pro-Israeli governments in the world, the Dutch political establishment is dreading a Rutte-Wilders cabinet.

Consequently, the CDA, which, as one of the Netherlands' traditional government parties closely linked to the Dutch establishment, was reluctant to start negotiations with VVD and PVV. Some in the CDA, moreover, argue that the CDA, as the greatest loser of the elections, should go into opposition. By appointing Herman Tjeenk Willink as her informer and representative in the coalition talks, the Queen has made it clear that she wants Labor to be part of the coalition. Before the elections, Labor explicitly stated that it would not form a government with the PVV. With the Labor politician Tjeenk Willink in the key role, it is obvious that the Queen is directing the Netherlands towards her own preference: a centrist coalition of Liberals, Laborites and Christian-Democrats. Such a coalition would have 82 seats. If the CDA preferred to join the opposition, a leftist coalition -- of Liberals, Laborites, and the left-liberals of D66 and the Green Left Party -- would be another possibility (81 seats). Another alternative, in case Mr. Rutte refuses to go along with the Queen's schemes, would be a leftist coalition of Laborites, Christian-Democrats, D66, the Greens and the CU (76 seats).

"The elite of the Left and the regents absolutely want to avoid the risk of a cabinet with Wilders," writes Prof. Ellian. "Wilders has been preliminarily excluded without the elite even considering negotiations with him." Ellian further points out that this is not just an injustice to Mr. Wilders, but also to his 1.5 million voters "who have been excluded from an important political process without as much as one relevant argument."

Mr. Tjeenk Willink, says Prof. Ellian, is now the Dutch "Viceroy," who has to neutralize both Messrs. Wilders and Rutte. The former because his outspokenness on issues such as Islam has made him unacceptable to the Dutch ruling establishment and the international elite; the latter because he has stated that his political priorities include an economic austerity program and a reduction of immigration levels.

Consequently, Queen Beatrix and her advisor Tjeenk Willink must maneuver very carefully. If they fail to put together a government without the PVV, there might be new elections, resulting in such a strong position for Mr. Wilders that one will not be able to exclude him


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