On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/29 F***ing Moroccans
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/24 End of a soap opera
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/19 Just when you think you've seen it all...
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/17 Whodunnit
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/16 Oh my GAWD, they killed the cabinet...!
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/15 The plot thickens
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/05 No happy end yet
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/04 All's well...
On-page link, opens in this window 02/10/03 The silly season continues


F***ing Moroccans are the talk of the town over here right now.

It all started a couple of months ago, when Amsterdam councilman Rob Oudkerk and mayor Job Cohen were caught on TV referring to groups of male juvenile delinquents with Moroccan roots as "kutmarokkanen", literally c*nt Moroccans, or f***ing Moroccans. What they said was something like "they're f***ing Moroccans but they're *our* f***ing Moroccans", and both were clearly unaware that there was a camera and a microphone around. The whole thing created quite a stir at the time.

Anyway, now there's a young Dutch-Moroccan rapper called Raymtzer who's made a record called "kutmarokkanen", with lyrics that criticize racism and point out that he's Dutch as much as Moroccan. It's a nice song, combining rap with a Middle-Eastern sound. The clip has been made TMF's - whatever it is that they call a clip that they're playing all the time, and in turn this was mentioned on all the news shows on TV. It was kind of funny to hear the newsreaders pronounce the word "c*nt"with various degrees of uneasiness, but then again I'm easily amused.

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Watching the news shows on TV has become a different kind of experience since the cabinet has fallen. Before, it was "...good grief, what have they done now...", while now it's more like "... item about the problems that elderly homeless and drug addicts face... item about the EU referendum in Ireland... forum discussion about the effect the Washington DC sniper has on American society... um, OK, that's interesting..." After having been engrossed with our own national little soap opera we seem to be resurfacing and finding there's a whole world out there.

Anyway, back to the sad backwater that is Dutch politics. The queen accepted the cabinet's resignation on Monday, and it has been decided that the general elections will be on January 22. The date has been chosen so that new parties have a chance to register and participate.

It looks like the "new politics" will be represented by four parties in the elections:

Leefbaar Nederland (livable / inhabitable Netherlands), the original "new politics" party. Currently they've got 2 seats in the Second Chamber and according to the latest polls they'll no longer be represented after the next elections;

Lijst Pim Fortuyn, currently with 26 seats in the Second Chamber, and expected to get 3 or 4 seats;

Lijst Nieuwe Politiek (list new politics), a new party founded by demissionary Econimics Minister Herman Heinsbroek and former LPF fraction leader Harry Wijnschenk. They're expected to get about 5 seats in parliament after the next elections, though they say they're counting on 10 or more;

Lijst Nieuw Nederland (list new Netherlands), a new party founded by Leefbaar Nederland founder Jan Nagel. Nagel has registered the Lijst Nieuw Nederland for the next elections, but indicates that they haven't decided yet whether they'll actually participate in the elections.

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Just when I thought I had seen it all, the interview with former cabinet minister Eduard Bomhoff on the Netwerk television show last night proved me wrong.

In the 50-minute program, Bomhoff talked about his relationship with former cabinet minister Heinsbroek and the fall of the cabinet.

Things he said about Heinsbroek:

...he didn't have a background in economics, and he was afraid to have to defend his policies in the Second Chamber... it might have worked, with him launching his "trial balloons" and me working hard to get rid of the health care waiting lists, but alas... he was talking to the press all the time, and we were afraid that he would become a security risk by leaking things like the discussions at a meeting about terrorist activity in the Netherlands... he had lost interest in being in the cabinet, and wanted to lead the party as the new Pim Fortuyn - he had hired consultants and estimated that he could get the LPF 80% of the votes that it had gotten in the general elections in May... cabinet ministers and others were encouraging me all the time telling me not to get drawn into the conflict, and that he would probably decide to leave any time now...

During the program an excerpt from an interview with Herman Heinsbroek was shown. Heinsbroek claimed that with Bomhoff it was all about power, that Bomhoff had felt threatened by him and that he had been working in one-on-ones with cabinet ministers and others to undermine his position in the cabinet. Bomhoff's response to the excerpt: let the viewers decide for themselves. (Actually the two versions don't seem to be mutually exclusive.)

About the fall of the cabinet Bomhoff said something like:

...Thursday last week it became clear that Heinsbroek had to leave the cabinet. LPF cabinet minister (and former member of the VVD) De Boer phoned VVD fraction leader in the Second Chamber Gerrit Zalm asking him how he would respond to Heinsbroek being asked to resign. Zalm then proposed that both Heinsbroek and Bomhoff should resign over their "so-called feud"...

Bomhoff described this as a trap since after the resignation of two cabinet ministers, one of them also vice-prime minister, the fall of the cabinet would be inevitable.

When asked about the reason why Zalm would do this, Bomhoff claimed that prime minister Balkenende intended to include a remark about overspending by the previous cabinet (where Zalm had been finance minister) in the "regeringsverklaring" (government policy statement), and that Zalm had been looking for revenge ever after. Bomhoff stated that, after this, Gerrit Zalm was no longer fit to bear any kind of political responsibility.

Later that night Gerrit Zalm was on TV as a guest in the Barend en Van Dorp talk show. He fervently denied having had the telephone conversation with De Boer that Bomhoff described (apparently De Boer also denies that it took place) and dismissed Bomhoff's statements about his lust for revenge as ridiculous. He did admit that, at one time, it had been his opinion that if Bomhoff and Heinsbroek left the cabinet and the LPF fraction would remain stable the cabinet would be able to continue, and that he had discussed this with members of the LPF Chamber fraction.

With this interview, in my opinion Bomhoff (together with Heinsbroek in the excerpts that were shown from his interview) hasn't just provided the wood but he also lit the pyre and jumped into the flames while whistling a happy little tune. Until now the LPF had taken the approach that the Bomhoff / Heinsbroek feud wasn't that serious at all, and that the christian democrats and conservatives had allowed the cabinet to fall for other reasons. To a certain extent, this approach might have worked and it might have gained them some sympathy votes at the next elections. After seeing the interview I can't help getting the impression that Bomhoff in particular had become obsessed with Heinsbroek and that the situation was indeed unworkable.

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Mat Herben (who had been re-elected as LPF fraction leader in the Second Chamber yesterday morning) didn't do badly at all in the debate yesterday afternoon. The debate was basically a whodunnit: who killed the cabinet? Wednesday morning the LPF were still under the impression that, if Bomhoff and Heinsbroek resigned and if their fraction didn't split, the cabinet would be able to continue. At the same time, Wednesday morning the CDA and VVD fraction leaders had spoken to prime minister Balkenende and had declared that they no longer had faith in the LPF as a coalition partner.

On Wednesday evening Jan Peter Balkenende offered the cabinet's resignation to the queen, and as it's called officially, she "has it under consideration". She will speak to Jan Peter Balkenende and to the chairmen of the First and Second Chamber on Monday. The most probable outcome is that she'll accept the cabinet's resignation and that the government becomes demissionary.

A demissionary cabinet is supposed to take care of ongoing business, but it's not allowed to do anything controversial. It's up to the Second Chamber to decide what's controversial and what isn't. Based on the "regeerakkoord" (the cabinet's mission statement / policy statement) the cabinet presents a list of items that they want to do during the demissionary period, and the Chamber decides whether any of these are controversial. In order for an item to be declared "controversial" there needs to be a "substantial" majority vote in the Chamber, though what exactly constitutes a "substantial majority" isn't defined.

Today the LPF fraction threatened to declare the entire financial planning for the coming year controversial, thus more or less paralyzing the government. They stated they have been rejected and are now in the opposition. Later they retracted the threath, and said that only parts of the financial plan would be declared controversial.

There are persistent rumors that former cabinet minister Heinsbroek will start a new version of the LPF with himself as political leader, and aided by his faithful ally, former fraction leader Harry Wijnschenk. The two seem inseparable, lately. Heinsbroek's words in his resignation (I remeber him saying something about not wanting to represent LPF in the cabinet anymore because of the lack of democracy within the party) and a television appearance last night seem to point in that direction.

Today the LPF fraction have voted for Harry Wijnschenk to leave the LPF fraction and to vacate his seat in parliament. His statement to the media that he had asked Herman Heinsbroek to become LPF's political leader (one of the things that started the Heinsbroek / Bomhoff feud) was stated as one of the main reasons. The LPF has a general meeting next Saturday, where they will elect the party leadership (currently there's an interim board).

According to three different polls that I've seen lately, the LPF would get 3 or 4 seats in the next general elections.

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The cabinet has fallen, and I spent part of the afternoon watching the Chamber debates on television. Fascinating stuff.
Off-site link, opens in new window Dutch Government collapses

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Prince Claus was buried today. What I saw of it was pretty impressive, especially the moment when the coffin was carried into the vault below the church, followed by the family.
Off-site link, opens in new window Article
Off-site link, opens in new window Pictures

Meanwhile, the political plot thickens, and the fall of the cabinet is becoming more and more of a probability.

Right now there are three major issues:

1) The conflict between LPF cabinet ministers Bomhoff and Heinsbroek, who apparently aren't even on speaking terms anymore and only communicate through third parties. If Heinsbroek resigns another LPF minister will be appointed and the consequences will be limited. Bomhoff is vice prime minister, and if he resigns the cabinet is expected to fall;

2) The conflict within the LPF fraction in parliament. They have a meeting tomorrow and they're expected to ask Harry Wijnschenk to resign as fraction leader. There is a possibility that, if that happens, Wijnschenk will leave the LPF fraction, taking several other LPF members of parliament with him, to start a fraction of his own. There are even rumors that in this situation he would start a political party of his own with minister Heinsbroek as its political leader. A split within the LPF fraction in the Second Chamber would lead to the fall of the cabinet;

3) The three coalition partners CDA, VVD and LPF have strongly conflicting views on the plans to admit 10 new member states to the EU in 2004. Both the conservatives (VVD) and the LPF are deeply sceptical about admitting some of these new member states, while the christian democrats (CDA) are in favor. If these differences are serious enough (and the cabinet actually gets around to discussing them in stead of spending all of its time and energy on the trouble within the LPF) the cabinet might fall.

After the funeral this afternoon there was an emergency meeting of the LPF cabinet ministers and secretaries of state to try and resolve the conflict between Heinsbroek and Bomhoff. The attempt was unsuccesful.

Tonight there was an emergency cabinet meeting about the admittance of the ten new member states to the EU. Eventually the cabinet didn't get around to discussing the EU at all and spent the entire meeting discussing the problems within the LPF. After the meeting prime minister Balkenende again urged LPF to resolve their differences.

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LPF's 12 regional coordinators met today, and unanimously decided to ask the interim board to ask Harry Wijnschenk to step down as chairman of the LPF fraction in the Second Chamber. Lawyer Oscar Hammerstein, assistant to interim party chairman Ed Maas, now described Thursday night's declaration of unity and goodwill as "play acting".

According to an article in NRC Handelsblad the root cause of the conflicts within the LPF is a power struggle between Ed Maas, co-founder of the party and its current interim chairman, and Albert de Booij, another co-founder of the party who stopped all open political activity after the murder on Fortuyn but who continued to pull strings from behind the screens. Apparently Wijnschenk and Heinsbroek are in De Booij's camp, and Bomhoff and the regional coordinators in Maas'.

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Thursday night LPF's cabinet ministers, members of parliament and a representative of the interim board had a four hour meeting, at the end of which they announced that they had resolved their differences and all was well. In the meantime, rumours continue to fly.

On Thursday, Green Left leader Paul Rosemöller had put forward a motion asking the Prime Minister for a written statement to the Second Chamber about whether the trouble in the LPF undermined the cabinet's stability. As a reply the Prime Minister sent a postcard saying "we greet you in unity and community", signed by all cabinet ministers. Apparently Rosemöller could see the humour of it but the Chairman of the Second Chamber wasn't amused.

According to the latest polls, if general elections were held today the seats in the Second Chamber would be distributed as follows:

 Poll resultCurrent
CDA (christian democrats)48 (+ 5)43
LPF (lijst Pim Fortuyn)9 (- 17)26
VVD (conservatives)27 (+ 3)24
PvdA (labor)26 (+ 3)23
Groen Links (green left)14 (+ 3)10
SP (socialists)13 (+ 4)9
D66 (political reform)6 (- 1)7
Christen Unie (christian union)5 (+ 1)4
SGP (fundamentalist christian)22
LN (leefbaar Nederland)0 (- 2)2

Off-site link, opens in new window Politieke barometer

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One or two months ago the LPF decided they were no longer happy with Mat Herben as their party leader. This sentiment was fanned by the media, where LPF's regional coordinators were encouraged to air their grievances and discuss who they would like to see as Herben's successor. Eventually an election was held among the LPF members of theSecond Chamber and Harry Wijnschenk was elected.

Wijnschenk's maiden appearance in parliament was somewhat less than impressive, in spite of assistance of members of his own party and the coalition partners in preparing his speech, and within LPF a report was prepared discussing his performance. Actually two versions of the report seem to exist, a polite one and a less polite one.

The report was intended for circulation among a limited subset of LPF's members of parliament and members of the government only. The assistent of parliament member Winny de Jong decided to distribute it to all 26 of LPF's parliament members and was fired without consulting De Jong (apparently her cell phone had not been on so she couldn't be reached).

When De Jong found out she was furious. De Jong held the #4 position on the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, and claims he named her as his successor. After the murder she was named as one of the candidates for the party leadership, but an emotional breakdown initially kept her from active participation in party politics. She claims to be manic depressive (the downside of her high intelligence and creativity) but to have it under control. Anyway, De Jong declared all-out war on Wijnschenk and on Ferry Hoogendijk, an elderly former journalist who had acted as second-in-command to both Herben and Wijnschenk. Among other things, De Jong accused Hoogendijk of having bought his position on the Lijst, and stated that Wijnschenk should move to the "back benches" to gain some experience. The LPF parliament and government members had a long meeting earlier this week where, after Wijnschenk had threatened to leave the LPF Chamber fraction along with seven or eight other LPF members of parliament, Winny de Jong and her staunchest supporter Cor Eberhard were removed from the LPF fraction. This means that, unless they give up their membership, they will still be members of the parliament but they will no longer represent the LPF. Emotions ran high, and an LPF member of parliament actually hit a press photographer inside the Second Chamber. The chairman of the Second Chaimber was not amused, nor were LPF's coalition partners.

In another interesting development this week, Harry Wijnschenk asked LPF cabinet minister Herman Heinsbroek to take up the political leadership of the LPF. Heinsbroek declared himself willing to do so, provided that he could become vice-prime minister, a position currently held by LPF minister Bomhoff. Bomhoff declared to have no intention to step down.

The latest development is that the twelve regional coordinators within LPF have asked interim party chairman Ed Maas (a real estate broker and one of the party's founders) to take disciplinary action against any member of the LPF who has come out in the media in a way that is damaging to the party. There will be a meeting on Saturday to decide on what action to take against whom. Earlier this week, Harry Wijnschenk had accused Ed Maas of wanting to use the Provincial elections next year to get his "real estate pals" elected in province governmental positions.

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