As reported in the news feed in recent days, there have been massive riots in multiple locations in The Netherlands as a reaction to the new COVID-19 curfew. Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan sends this report on what’s happening.
Massive riots over the whole country
by H. Numan
Quite a lot is happening in the land behind the dykes. For starters, the government resigned. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an essay that this was going to happen. It did. After resigning, the now caretaker premier ordered a highly controversial curfew because of the ongoing Chinese virus pandemic. This lead to major riots now spreading all over the country.
This curfew is the first one after World War Two. We Dutch have some pretty bad memories about curfews. The last chap who ordered it was executed. He was Reichscommissar Seyss-Inquart. His name translates almost perfectly into six and a quarter in Dutch, which became his nickname. Unofficial of course, as he didn’t have a sense of humor. On the remains of his command bunker you can still see chalk marks with 6¼ near the entrance. But I digress.
The resignation of the cabinet was inevitable. A long-smoldering scandal in the tax department was going to end in a full parliamentary debate. Heads would roll. Something that normally doesn’t worry Mark Rutte too much. This time, his own head was on the block. By resigning he prevented that debate, and continues as caretaker premier and as a candidate in the coming elections.
It’s legal — but barely. Imagine a company where the billing department made huge blunders. So big that firing the head of the department won’t do. The CEO might be fired by the board. So the CEO simply resigns to avoid an inquiry. As there is no inquiry, he can remain a candidate for CEO. I’m not sure if this would be possible in the business world, but in politics it works.
It’s even worse: his advisors openly said that he can now rule by decree. He doesn’t have to listen to parliament anymore, as he has resigned. After all, you can’t fire someone who resigned. His position is now much stronger than before.
In my book, ordering the most controversial law since World War Two is not exactly something a caretaker should do. I think it’s probably legal, otherwise we would have heard the opposition about it.
But that’s what happened. The decree passed, no problems there. We don’t hear from the opposition on it, but rather from the electorate. Many of them. By throwing bricks. On Saturday and Sunday huge riots broke in Amsterdam and Eindhoven. Those riots have spread throughout the country. Once the police started to enforce that curfew, the riot police had to act on it. Supported by water cannons and mounted police. Who are the rioters? Well, the media are working very hard to put the blame on supporters of Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet.
The leader of the Labor party, Tobias Asscher, had to resign himself, just before the resignation of the cabinet. He’s been replaced in the party by Mrs. Ploumen, who openly accuses Wilders of inciting the riots. Don’t worry, Ploumen is not very popular. Not in the party, and certainly not outside. They simply haven’t got anyone else at the moment. The PvdA [Labor Party] currently has nine seats. With Ploumen at the helm, that’ll be a lot fewer.