Sunday 21 February 2010

The amazing prospect of Balkenende V

Balkenende IV collapses

I woke up yesterday morning to the news story on Al-Jazeera television that the Dutch cabinet had collapsed

Though we have had the same Prime Minister [2] since 2002 that was the collapse of the fourth coalition cabinet though this one lasted the longest.

The very obvious and challenging thing to realise is the politics of the Netherlands has changed irretrievably over the last decade from the traditions we have all learnt built the Netherlands into a country of global influence and economic clout.

The dyke collapses

Somehow, I am afraid that the thinking that allowed the Dutch to grab land from the sea for form the land mass we now have in the time worn fashion of the Polder Model [3] of consensus and compromise towards agreement has departed.

In political terms, we have had the equivalent of a dyke-break, I cannot find any outward thinking or celebrated act of statesmanship in the political landscape that has caused the collapse of all the four cabinets.

Rather, political infighting to self-destruction on such matters of local import looking for some political advantage in possible elections have bedevilled the system.

An ambiguous electorate

It goes without saying that we have the governments we choose and we have generally elected conservatives balanced by liberals and augmented by populist extremists, the last cabinet however was an uneasy grand-coalition of conservatives, the centre-left and an orthodox religious party – I thought it was a powder-keg, it only had a very long fuse.

In 2002, the cabinet of Wim Kok [4] dissolved in taking the possible responsibility for the Srebrenica massacre, this cabinet fell on the possibility of extending the tenure of Dutch troops in the NATO alliance in Afghanistan – they basically could not agree on the matter.

Our NATO commitment

Just less than 2,000 troops is not necessarily a significant number in Afghanistan and we do have a somewhat quiet existence there as opposed to the South of Afghanistan but we had been promised the troops will return this summer.

Not to mention the erstwhile Secretary General of NATO was Dutch, so we have a significant and influential member of that coalition pulling out with some consequences and hopefully not too damaging.

Generally, many would prefer that the war in Afghanistan come to an end with all our troops back home, which for me also includes the British troops but we cannot afford to leave a quagmire in that region, I am saddened that if that venture does yield results the footnote the Dutch might attain could be closer to ignominious by reason of little-country politics.

However, with the change of tactics in pursuing the war in Afghanistan there was a need to reconsider the pullback as part of the Dutch contribution, between the parliament and the within the coalition partners there was no agreement leading the Labour Party to withdraw from the coalition because they were against the extension.

Some fearful possibilities

Now, Prime Minister Balkenende might have the opportunity of forming another cabinet, the fifth – it really beggars belief, in July 2006, I wrote No to Balkenende III [4], I cannot believe I am looking at a possible Balkenende V.

I would suppose Jan Peter Balkenende does have some political savvy for holding on for so long even though his Calvinist inclinations might well reflect why he is somewhat invisible and some policies are parsimonious – but with another election the only worse thing that could happen is to have people be persuaded by the vitriolic rhetoric of Geert Wilders [6], the fact is he could be the next Prime Minister.


[1] Al Jazeera English - Europe - Dutch cabinet falls over Afghan row

[2] Jan Peter Balkenende - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Polder Model - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Wim Kok - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[5] No to Balkenende III []

[6] Geert Wilders - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[1] and I was not that surprised.

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