Our expatriate Dutch correspondent H. Numan sends the following report about a major crisis brewing in the current Dutch government.
Dutch cabinet in difficult waters
by H. Numan
A year ago the Dutch cabinet ordered a commission to investigate the involvement of the Dutch government in Iraq. This commission is named the Davids commission, after the chairman. The commission is investigating the decision process that led to the support of the government in 2003 in the Iraq war, when the USA and Great Britain ousted the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The purpose of the investigation was to clarify the matter which had already been going on for six years.
This commission presented their report yesterday, and they didn’t pussyfoot around. Far from it! The government had withheld important information from the parliament, amongst others. The Dutch intelligence agencies didn’t act independently, as they should have, and the legal basis for the government to get involved in the first place was lacking.
Even more: the government very strongly wanted “some changes” in the findings, which the commission refused to do. They are not going to change anything at all.
Today it is not impossible, but unlikely, that the government will have to resign or gets the boot. Why unlikely? Because the present coalition isn’t doing well at all. Both the Christian Democrats as the Labor party will loose massively if they have to resign or get fired by the parliament. The trial of Wilders is starting next week, which won’t do their cause any good either.
As long as the CDA and PvdA hold hands there is nothing to worry about. Currently the cabinet holds a majority in parliament, and that is what matters. But at this moment they aren’t exactly holding hands…
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The prime minister refuses to acknowledge any errors made by him. On the other side, the leader of the PvdA (vice prime minister Bos) insists that the prime minister make a new statement. In other words: admit that he did make errors. Especially Mrs. Hamers, chairman of the PvdA, wants the prime minister to make that new statement. The other coalition partner, the CU (fundy Christians) support the government.
Today there will be a debate in parliament. Not surprisingly, the opposition will press for a vote of no confidence. If the members of the government parties support that motion, the cabinet has no alternative but offer its resignation.
As I said, it is not likely. Both the PvdA as well as the CDA would lose enormously. The PvdA will almost certainly be out of a new cabinet. The CDA will, as usual, get in. But this time not as majority partner. A possible electoral result (based on polls) is a CDA — VVD — PVV cabinet. Both the VVD (conservatives) and PVV are doing pretty well currently. The VVD staged a comeback after a lot of problems earlier on.
Elections cannot be called for instantly. That’s technically impossible. Next week Wilders’ trial starts, which will place Wilders and the PVV into the limelight. Which will in all likelihood raise the level of support for the PVV.
Supposing the cabinet resigns today, elections can be held about a fortnight or maybe a month later, at the earliest. Right at the height of Wilders’ trial. That is why I think a lot of negotiating is being done right now to avert that danger.