donderdag, januari 23, 2003

Holland 101: Welcome Back To The Status Quo

With all the whining and complaining about what crappy allies the French and the Germans are simply for being a little reticent about jumping on a War As Fast As Possible bandwagon, it might have gotten lost that the Dutch held their second national elections in the last 8 months yesterday.

The results of the previous election, held last May, just a little over a week after the assasination of its primary opposition leader, Pim Fortuyn, were overturned in October with the collapse of the coalition government which consisted of Fortuyn's old party the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, in a shaky alliance with the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the VVD (Liberal party). The collapse of the government was brought about, in large part, because the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, sans Pim Fortuyn, wasn't much more than a list of fatuous, squabbling second-raters with a penchant for childish theatrics.

It would seem to the casual observer that perhaps resentful of having to vote a second time within a year due to the inner turmoil of the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch turned their distemper to the LPF with a vengeance. The Lijst, which won 26 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament the last time around, won only 8 this time around. In truth, the LPF had already cashed in most of their credibility the last time around and frankly, Pim himself has been dead for almost nine months. Memory fades.

So, without the memory of their assassinated, charismatic leader, the LPF floundered and in their wake, the votes, perhaps out of a lack of creative inspiration, went back to the stale, insipid duo of the past, the Christian Democrats and the Labor Party who for the last 30 years, have traded places as ruling members of the coalition government giving the population an illusion of stability.

The national elections are only the beginning of the fun however. The real fighting and bickering is on the horizon. Because no one party received a majority of votes, a coalition government still has to be formed and a pugnacious battle is eagerly awaited. While the Christian Democrats, led by the Harry Potteresque, bland Jan Peter Balkenende won the most votes, they didn't win the majority. The previous coalition, which failed like a martini that had been stirred rather than shaken, had consisted of the Christian Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Lijst Pim Fortuyn and is still a possibility for forming a current coalition since by themselves, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party don't have enough seats to construct a majority. But given the past history of the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, it doesn't seem likely that the Christian Democrats are going to ask them to jump in bed with them again any time soon.

The "logical" coalition choice, counting seats alone, would of course be the number two seat winner, the Labor Party. Such a coalition ruled Holland from 1989 to 1994 under Christian Democrat Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers. The Labor Party leader Wouter Bos understandably noted that "negotiations should start as soon as possible," while Balkendende himself, the future Prime Minister, indicated a long period of horse-trading may be ahead, saying that there were "many risks" in going into a coalition with Labor.

One of the primary points of contention could be foreign policy. Although it had not been a campaign issue, Labor Party leader Wouter Bos said in a post-election speech he would "work to head off a war with Iraq." Balkenende's previous government had pledged to offer the United States logistical support in the event of war.

However, regardless of their stance, the Dutch shouldn't have to be worried about being relegated to being part of the Old Europe coalition that Donald "If We Wanted To, We Could Kick God's Ass In A War" Rumsfeld coined for an unenthusiastic France and Germany yesterday. They should be more worried about how to expand the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague to accomodate the future residences for people like Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and their proselytic flunkies in the White House after the reconstruction of the New World dust settles.

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