More than six months ago The Netherlands held a general election. At last, a cabinet has been formed — but except for the prime minister, none of its members have been announced.
Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan has the story.
by H. Numan
It took a while, but we’ve got a cabinet. Finally. And what a cabinet that’s going to be! The nickname (one of many) is ‘Until Christmas I’. Nobody thinks this cabinet will last the full ride. Not even the parties who form it. And we still don’t know who is going to be in it, apart from Mark Rutte. All we know is that taxes go up, up, up. And that we will get no fewer than 25 ministers. That alone is a sure sign the cabinet won’t last long. We don’t know who will become ministers, only Mark Rutte. We don’t even know when they will start working. That’s another sign we’re looking at temporary cabinet.
Let me recapitulate for you: we went to the polls on the 15th of March. The PVV party did fairly well, but not well enough. They came second with 20 seats. The ‘winner’ was the VVD (conservatives) with 33 seats. I say ‘winner’ as they didn’t win at all. They lost 25%, down from 41 seats. But they remained the biggest party and therefore called the shots. For Americans, coalition governments are incomprehensible, so allow me to explain how it works.
In Holland and many other countries a coalition is the only form of governance possible. We have too many parties to begin with and our system does not allow for one party which takes all. It’s not illegal, but extremely unlikely to happen. In America you essentially have two parties. Either one governs, or the other. There isn’t any other option.
Now, imagine Donald Trump was rejected by his own party and set up a new one. He is wealthy enough to do just that. More importantly, he has ample funds for a well-run campaign. This is usually the problem for third parties in America: they may have good ideas, even good people, but lack the funds for promotion. The elections are there. Trump doesn’t win outright, but enough to block any government without his party. To make it easy: all get 1/3 of the vote. That’s when you get a coalition. None can govern alone. None likes the others. But the country has to be governed, so a deal must be struck. Let the haggling begin!
Mark Rutte tried first to form a left-wing coalition by inviting GL (former communists) to negotiate. Yasser Feras (Jesse Klaver) made an absolute fool of himself by demanding the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and a lot more. When a deal was nearly complete, he reneged on it by demanding even more.
The only other option was to invite the CU party. The CU, Christian Union, is an extreme left-wing but staunchly Calvinist party. That sounds somewhat weird, I know. But we’re Dutch, so that’s perfectly normal to us. You can see it as group of very strict Calvinists (Sunday laws, no abortion; that sort of thing) but they take their charity and compassion not out of the Bible but from Marx. Think: your Bible Belt, with Bernie Sanders in the pulpit.
Finally, after months and months of haggling, we got a deal that satisfies no one. It’s next to impossible to name this monstrosity: a conservative (VVD) progressive (CU/D66) Christian (CDA/CU) cabinet. Laugh if you will, but we have to live with it.
The cabinet isn’t there yet, but we already know that the low rate VAT goes up from 6 to 9% and the mortgage tax deduction is going down the drain fast. The cabinet claims everyone will cash in. Realistically, very few people will. Rutte said he will compensate lower incomes but if you believe that, I have a religion of peace on offer for you. Pork is not included.
In Holland we have two VAT rates: 6% (from 2018 onwards that will be 9%) on essential goods, the stuff people need to stay alive. And 21% on luxury goods, that’s everything else. Due to the economic crisis of 2008, the VAT on luxury goods went up ‘temporarily’ from 19% to 21%. To remind you, as a lad I remember when VAT (we call it BTW) was introduced. Back then in 1969 luxury goods were taxed 12%. Now it’s nearly double. The new cabinet is of course not going to lower that ‘temporary’ higher rate, if only because the tax department doesn’t know the word temporary exists.
As you can expect from a left wing cabinet, development aid goes up to two billion. And defense — what’s left of it; that’s not much —probably down. I’ll keep you informed about more good news coming from below the dikes, when it comes in.
Now, I said nobody likes this cabinet, and everybody is dead certain this cabinet won’t last long. Even the parties who form this cabinet think so, because Pechtold (D66), Seegers (CU) and Buma (CDA) all remain in parliament. They declined cabinet seats. For the best of reasons of course, but the main reason is that they don’t want to go down with this shipwreck. Mark Rutte (VVD, conservatives) doesn’t have that option. He wanted this cabinet, and has to live with it.
As captain of Zr. Ms. Shipwreck he has a lot more to worry about. First of all, this cabinet relies on one-seat majority in parliament. One single coalition parliamentarian who votes against it can sink it. Lots of coalition parliamentarians weren’t too happy with this deal to begin with. The party whips will have a very interesting, not to mention busy, time ahead keeping them in line.
The VVD wanted minister Hennis (defense) as new minister of foreign affairs, but that is now impossible. Ex-minister Hennis, as she was forced to resign last week. There was a deadly accident with faulty munitions that caused the death of two Dutch soldiers fighting in Mali. The Dutch army in the field is nicknamed the beggars’ army because of its worn out equipment. They have to borrow it from their allies. Not only the top brass is unhappy about that, but even the troops are now rebelling. Troopers have to buy their own equipment, if they don’t want to work with the hand-me-downs issued by the army. The defense ministry is being taken to court for it by members of the commandos.
This minister Hennis is the seventh in a row who had to resign. A parliamentary record! No other cabinet in Dutch history lost so many ministers. And probably a first for Rutte: can a minister who had already resigned (on the 16th of March the cabinet offered its formal resignation to the king) be forced to resign again? Obviously, he or she can.
The former VVD parliamentarian Ybeltje Berckmoes wrote a nasty book about her (bad) experiences within the VVD party. The book is a bestseller, currently in its third printing. She doesn’t mince words here. A huge embarrassment for both Rutte and the VVD.
Wait, there is more. A seriously deranged rapist, a real Dutchman, Michael P
anhuis, not from the religion of peace this time, brutally raped and killed a girl. It wasn’t the first time he did that. In 2010 he raped two underage girls and was sentenced to 16 years in jail. But… the prosecution found this too harsh and appealed successfully for a lighter sentence. He got 11 years, and was released early. Even worse: he would probably have been sentenced to a mental institution, but he declined to cooperate. Legally, that is possible in The Netherlands. Being institutionalized can be extended indefinitely. They don’t like that, so decline to cooperate in a mental examination. Then they serve a normal sentence, and within a couple of years they can roam the streets again. The trick is well-known in those circles. Mr. P anhuis was actually proud on what he had achieved. He boasted about his double rape.
This brutal rape/murder now controls the news. It won’t affect the cabinet, but sure as hell won’t do the VVD any good. The VVD is the law-and-order party, and usually are in charge of the justice department. Well, this happened on their watch. It actually happened at the right moment, after the elections. Now they have to live up to their big words.
But the PVV? you may ask. What about them? They went from 15 to 20 seats, a win of 25%. Well, the PVV is out. Boycotted. No party wants to cooperate with them. The media block everything the PVV says or does. Unless it is bad news. Michael Heemels was sentenced to 14 months in jail for embezzling party funds. Fully deserved, mind you. He embezzled €177,000. However, VVD junior minister Robin Lintschoten got a mere two months for tax fraud. He was seen as the up-and-coming man within the VVD. The amount is not specified, but surely not less. PvdA council member for Utrecht Bert van der Roest embezzled about €50,000 from the poor. All he had to do was promise to pay it back. Which he didn’t.
The PVV is coming back, mind you. Next year for sure. Because in spring 2018 we have local elections. Until now the PVV has declined to participate in local elections. They only have representation in The Hague and Almere. After the local elections they will be present in many if not most cities in The Netherlands. And in 2019 the PVV will have a much bigger presence in the senate. The 20 seats they got this year in the elections will matter then.
There is also a new party, called FvD or Forum for Democracy. This party is doing very well in the polls, but I have my doubts. Right now they have 2 seats, so they can’t do much. They are not yet under a total media or political boycott, but the extreme left is already using terrorist tactics on the leader, Thierry Baudet. His house was tarred, and excrement dumped in his mailbox. The same tactics used on Pim Fortuyn, by the way, when he became too popular. The pie tossed was not a custard pie but baked with, please excuse me, with menstrual blood, urine and excrement.
It’s highly likely FvD will grow a lot in the coming elections, but that also means that the infighting and quarreling begin. Exactly the reason why the PVV opted for no democracy within the party. If you don’t know it: the PVV is not a party, but a foundation. With one member only: Geert Wilders. That is the reason why the PVV is always short on cash. Parties get very generous funds from the government; foundations don’t.
Another reason why I have my doubts about FvD is their political position. The PVV is firmly behind the common man. FvD is much more a wannabe elitist party. A good idea if you are conservative and earn well above the average wage. If you earn average or below, not so much. That doesn’t mean to say they don’t woo the average or below-average earners. Very successfully, so far.
In short: we will get a conservative-progressive-Christian cabinet. If the election were to be held today, the participating parties would lose already. None of the announced measures have been implemented. If the new cabinet survives until new year, rest assured the VVD will pay a massive price for it.
So Rutte does what he does best: hope for a miracle. Drag his heels. Wait. Wait some more. We know a new cabinet is coming, but not when. Highly unusual, because most of the time when the white smoke appears, the next day the new cabinet is presented. Not this time. The news is: yes, there is a new cabinet. That’s all folks! Nothing more. When the cabinet actually will begin to work is anyone’s guess. Don’t expect anything before November. Maybe even after Sinterklaas (5 December). Another sure sign nobody thinks it will last.
I almost forgot… we’re going to have at least one and likely two more referendums the new government will absolutely certain reject. The first one is almost there. For a advisory referendum 300,000 votes are required, and have been collected. The campaign goes on, to make sure more votes are collected, to offset invalid signatures. That’s a popular trick used to hinder referendums. Signatures will be checked meticulously and rejected wherever possible.
What’s at stake? We’ve got a law for the intelligence services, WIV 2002. This law doesn’t cover the latest technologies and is now replaced by WIV 2017. The law is nicknamed the dragnet law, as it gives the police and intelligence services almost unlimited possibilities for surveillance. Anything you do on the Internet can be monitored and collected by the intelligence services. And stored for no less than three years. Search warrants are no longer necessary. Individuals are not specifically targeted; the law allows them to search/monitor entire areas, communities, or entire cities or even provinces. Should the minister deem that necessary. Parliamentary control is absolutely zero. The minister decides when, whom or what to monitor. To make it easy to understand: anything you do on your computer can be monitored and collected for three years. It’s like turning on your computer, logging into your local police system, who will see everything you do. And store it for three years. It’s now even legally possible to hack into someone’s computer and place software on it. Oh, you’re one of those saints who have nothing to hide? Nope. You do. In England you can now be sentenced to 15 years hard labor if you frequent sites that promote extremism. That includes GoV too, because questioning islam is now considered extremism, too. 1984 was written as a warning, not as a f***ing manual!!!
The new government will with 110% certainty reject this referendum, and they can. We only have advisory referendums in Holland. No legislative referendums. The government doesn’t want this referendum, and will do its very best to invalidate it. To nip it in the bud. If it passes, the outcome be will rejected.
Another referendum is planned; this will be a referendum on the referendum itself. The government, in particular the parties that proposed this law (SP, GL, D66), didn’t like the outcome of the referendums so far and have withdrawn their support for it. In fact, they are working hard to invalidate that law.
Those are two really big nails in the coffin of the new cabinet. All the PVV has to do is jump on it and campaign for it. Hopefully, they will do just that.
— H. Numan