Tuesday 14 November 2006

Are we voting in 8 days time?

A Quite Quiet Dutch Election

In the Netherlands, we are deep into electioneering as the parliament is to be elected on the 22nd of November 2006.

Unlike the United States where one would have been bombarded with adverts in televisions, billboards, radio and any other communication medium you can think of; I could imagine a time when they would be able to invade your dreams and plan voting thoughts into would make you suddenly break out of sleep in cold sweat reaching for your gun – I have noticed nothing here in the Netherlands.

In fact, we have billboards set up in particular locations where parties and their activists can post their bills, this society could be so egalitarian, and it is scary.

By proportion to a list

Anyway, I received the list of candidates in my mailbox; we have a system of proportional representation, each party has a list of candidates where the person at number 1 is most likely to be elected and the last is least likely, it is a hierarchy but not as we know it.

When the votes are cast, the percentage of the polled votes against the total votes is computed to determine the number of seats gained as a proportion of the total number of seats contested by all parties, the party then fills the seats starting from number one to the fulfilled number.

The party with the most seats gains the right to seek out a coalition of other parties with which to form a government.

I cannot vote in the Netherlands, but I do have the right to vote if as a European citizen from the UK, I decide to chuck in my British passport for a Dutch one, why would I do such a thing?

I already can vote for the local elections and that is fine by me.

Listing all controversy

A number of things are quite interesting about the list; we have the Christian Unie (Christian Union) which is somewhat conservative evangelical that aligns itself with the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij - SGP (Reformed Political Party) an ultra-conservative curmudgeon of repressed religionists.

The SGP made the news earlier in the year and were on the verge of losing government funding for not allowing women to participate in the voting process, they do not believe in female suffrage – yes, we have those types in liberal Netherlands.

The CU however, does have men and women on their list; I would say nothing about hypocrisy in this respect.

Illiberal by personality

Then we have the Liberal Party, the VVD which is in coalition in government with the CDA, the party of the man who used to look like Harry Potter.

I for one cannot find what is liberal about the VVD, being the haven of my most revered Lady Oddjob, the Minister for dis-Integration (sic) and emigration (Immigration), Mrs Rita Verdonk whose antics have caused Dutch politics great disservice without remorse.

She happens to be the reason why we have having early elections having mucked up a number of asylum and citizenship issues that the government had to fall, the circumstances around Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s loss of Dutch citizenship and then the reinstatement of the same brought it all to a head.

Mrs Verdonk has never been elected, only appointed, she contested for the leadership of the VVD and came second, thankfully, but in the process, she has landed herself the number 2 position in the VVD party list which means she would become a member of parliament without fail.

Verdonk the enigma

Her initiatives have included calling for the abolition of the Equal Treatment Commission based on the fact that they ruled that a Muslim woman may decide not to shake hands with men and offer alternative greeting methods – I think that is a sensible assessment of the situation, it is quite different from wearing a veil in a class of children.

I have met devout Muslim women who do not shake hands, I respect that decision, in fact, in one instance, a class mate of mine simply clasped her hands and then extended them to lift my outstretched hand, and observers thought I had been accorded more than anyone had every elicited from her, I was honoured.

Equal because of inequalities

It is not that I have required services from the Equal Treatment Commission or in the case the UK the Equal Opportunities Commission, but those commissions exist because of inequalities in society, discrimination, abuse, bullying and many other things that allow dominant cultures to take undue advantage of minorities.

A democracy can well be the voice of the majority, but it should also protect the civil rights of the minority, we cannot have the tyranny of the majority persecuting and prosecution the minority, it makes for societal chaos where terrorism might be employed to fight tyranny.

Nobody seems to have taken to that kite she has flown, so, we would probably hear no more about it, this is the same woman who at one time suggested that Dutch should be the only language spoken on the streets of the Netherlands.

She has a heart of stone

After much protesting, she had considered sending 2 Iranian homosexuals back to Iran in the light of the fact that homosexuals had recently been hanged in that country – saying she had received assurances that no harm would come to the men.

Or, when her ministry passed on information of asylum seekers to repressive regimes that would have laid wait for deported failed asylum seekers, not to mention the fact that witnesses to a fire in an illegal immigrant detention camp were deported before they could give evidence on the matter, she having given assurances to the investigator that they would be retained till they are not needed anymore.

This is the catalogue of events that makes the Dutch vote her as the most popular politician and an Iron Lady, warped as this might seem, it is difficult for an expatriate like me to convince the everyday Dutch person that Mrs Verdonk is anything but nice.

We should soon expect the bombshell of civilizations, we have been intimated that there would for now be no ban on the burka, if the VVD wins, expect a ban of being a minority.


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