The Netherlands, the Middle East, and the 2010 Parliamentary Elections

By Rubin, Barry | Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online), September 2010 | Go to article overview

The Netherlands, the Middle East, and the 2010 Parliamentary Elections


Rubin, Barry, Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)


INTRODUCTION

The Netherlands is about to provide Europe with an important experiment: Can a centerright government manage an overblown welfare state, nationally suicidal multiculturalism, and virtually open-door immigration policies in a way that can maintain popular support and solve problems? After months of negotiations failed to bring about a coalition government across the spectrum, a new government has finally been formed. The partners are the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), a European liberal (that is, conservative) party and the Christian Democratic Party, (CDA). As it is, together they have 52 seats. While the VVD has been growing, the CDA has been in decline.

To be sure of a majority, the government will be supported from the outside by the Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders, giving a grand total of 76 seats, a razor-thin majority. Another small Christian party with two seats might offer support when needed. What makes this arrangement controversial is the role of Wilders, a controversial figure often described as "anti- Islam" and made into something of a bogeyman in Dutch politics. Yet Wilders' role has arguably undermined the conservative side since if he hadn't run, the two other main conservative parties would have gained almost all of his votes and had a big majority.

Wilders is thus something of a distraction here, who will be used by the left to call the new government various names; but the key figures are the leaders of the VVD, Mark Rutte, and of the CDA, Maxime Verhagen. Conservative and center parties received 55 percent of the votes in the elections.

Both of these parties support lower taxes, the free market, smaller government, less government regulation, limited immigration, are friendlier toward the United States and Israel, and take a tougher stance on radical Islamist groups. Thus while the international media is going to be focused on Wilders, the Dutch majority supports a program that might be called Wilders without the most controversial bits.

Among the key points in the new government's program:

-Heavier punishments for repeat criminals and the hiring of more police, including a special increase in those dealing with animalcruelty crimes (a big issue in Holland).

- Immigrants will receive Dutch citizenship for a five-year trial period during which it would be revoked and they would be deported for being convicted of any crime requiring twelve years imprisonment.

-A ban on the burqa, with no headscarves permitted for judges, prosecutors, or police.

-Cutting legal immigration in half.

-First-cousin marriage, common among Muslim immigrants, will be banned.

-Spending cutbacks, for the minister of defense also, including a withdrawal of the Dutch forces from Afghanistan.

Will this program be implemented and will it lead to more social peace and economic stability in the Netherlands? All of Europe will be watching.

EUROPEAN POLITICS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

The political situation in Europe today is quite different from the stereotype of a continent hostile to the United States (even if Obama is personally popular) and Israel, appeasement-oriented toward Iran and revolutionary Islamism, and eagerly multicultural and politically correct. True, Europe is more oriented in that direction than North America, but there is a real political struggle afoot over these and other issues.

In many countries-notably the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, and to a slightly lesser extent, the United Kingdom and France-the partisan gap between the left and center-right marks a boundary of much greater significance than it did in the 1970s or 1980s. Although each situation is different, the parties of the left tend to be more anti-American and anti-Israel, less alert to the threat of revolutionary Islamism, as well as favoring continued large-scale immigration.

A CASE STUDY

The Netherlands is a small country with many unique characteristics. …

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