On-page link, opens in this window 06/12/15 Another Balkenende cabinet crisis
On-page link, opens in this window 06/12/08 Doctor Who: The web of fear
On-page link, opens in this window 06/12/05 The Dutch general elections: the game
On-page link, opens in this window 06/12/03 The Dutch general elections: the players


Just when you thought it was all over...

Another Balkenende cabinet crisis

Here in the Netherlands, there's been a long-standing debate about a general pardon for a core group of asylum seekers who applied for asylum before 2001 and who, due to the slowness of the system, were either still waiting for a decision years later or had remained here as illegal aliens. After the general elections, a majority of the Second Chamber of Parliament was either in favour of the general pardon or at least for a moratorium on the removal of people in this group from the country and passed a motion, asking the cabinet for such a moratorium.

The cabinet refused to comply, arguing that the moratorium meant a change of policy, something that a de-missionary government couldn't be asked to implement. On Wednesday there was a Chamber debate about the topic, with immigration minister Rita Verdonk again refusing to do what the Chamber asked, and this resulted in a vote of non-approval (slightly less damning than a vote of no-confidence) against Verdonk. Mark Rutte, leader of the liberal-conservative VVD of which Verdonk is also a member, initially announced that all VVD members of the cabinet would leave if Verdonk left, though he later retracted that statement.

On Thursday, the cabinet had an emergency meeting that lasted almost 12 hours. The cabinet turned out to be deeply divided over the issue, with PM Balkenende's Christian-democrat CDA willing to comply, but the liberal-conservative VVD being adamantly against doing anything of the kind. At first the VVD had wanted to leave the cabinet, but eventually they yielded to Balkenende's request to stay on in order not to destabilise the government. Immigration minister Rita Verdonk, VVD, has swapped the relevant part of her portfolio with Justice minister Hirsh Ballin, CDA.

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2006


Since there's little news on the political front, and probably won't be for some time, I might as well get back to reviewing the 'classic' Doctor Who serials that I have on DVD. Today: The web of fear, another incomplete serial on the 'Lost in time' boxed set.

Doctor Who: The web of fear

This was a six-part serial, first broadcast between 3rd February 1968 - 9th March 1968. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Tardis gets caught in a web, and ends up in the London underground. Which is haunted by yetis. Web-making yetis.

What I've seen:

Part 1 Part 2 is missing Part 3 is missing Part 4 is missing Part 5 is missing Part 6 is missing

Part one. The other five episodes are lost.

Let's start with the not-so-good news:

Now, let's continue with some good news:

My verdict:

Quite good, actually.

Seen on its own, the one surviving episode is fairly forgettable fun.

Related links:
Off-site link, opens in new window BBC Cult: episode guide
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: serial review
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: DVD review (of the 'Lost in time' boxed set)

More Doctor Who reviews:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews

The latest version of this review:
On-site link, opens in this window The web of fear (1968)


Where do we go from here?

The Dutch general elections: the game

Let's start with the formal side. We needed to have general elections because the Balkenende cabinet (consisting of the Christian-democrat CDA, the liberal-conservative VVD and the D66 political reform party) lost its parliament majority after the Hirsi Ali crisis when D66 withdrew its support of the cabinet. Until the general elections, the Balkenende cabinet functioned as a minority cabinet, with just CDA and VVD. Until a new cabinet is formed, the Balkenende cabinet will continue as a de-missionary cabinet, taking care of business but not initiating any major new policies.

The formation of a new cabinet consists of two phases, the 'information' phase and the 'formation'. In the 'information' phase the 'informateur', generally a respected political elder, talks with everyone concerned and tries to get an idea of which combinations of parties might actually be willing and able to form a cabinet, and where the major differences of opinion are. When it's clear which parties will be in the cabinet we get the formation, where the cabinet is formed and the major policy points are negotiated.

There are a couple of complications about the current information and formation process.

One rather major complication is that no combination of two parties has a parliament majority. Three-party cabinets are known to be unstable, partly because negotiations between three parties are more complicated than negotiations between two parties, and partly the combination of two large(ish) parties with one much smaller one tends to cause tension in the cabinet.

Based on the election results, the most plausible coalition is between the Christian-democrat CDA, the PvdA (Labour) and the socialist SP. A couple of potential problems: CDA leader and current PM Jan-Peter Balkenende is known to prefer to continue the current coalition with the liberal-conservative VVD, and the relationship between CDA and PvdA may have suffered from the campaigns which were quite negative on both sides. Also the SP are far more dogmatically left-wing than the fairly moderate PvdA, which might mean that a CDA-Pvda-SP cabinet would be heading for interesting times.

With the other centre-left option, a coalition between CDA, PvdA and the left-wing-ish Christian fundamentalist CU we get the potentially unstable 'two large parties and one small one' dynamic. Also, with the CU issues like abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia might prove to be deal breakers one way or the other.

The current coalition, the Christian-democrat CDA and the liberal-conservative VVD, doesn't have a parliament majority. Based on the election results the anti-Muslim PvdV is the most likely coalition partner. In reality, this probably isn't going to happen. The CDA and the VVD don't share the PvdV's anti-Muslim views, there's no love lost between the VVD and PvdV leader Geert Wilders who used to be a VVD MP before starting his own party, and everyone still vividly remembers the chaos that ensued when Pim Fortuyn's LPF became part of PM Balkenende's first cabinet.

In short, what will change after the elections is basically anyone's guess. What we do know is that we probably won't have a new cabinet until January or February 2007.

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2006


The Dutch political spectrum after the 2006 general elections, from left to right.

The Dutch general elections: the players

The official results of the general elections are now available, and the following parties made it into the 150-seat Second Chamber of Parliament:

CDA (Christian-democrats): 41 seats
PvdA (Labour): 33 seats
SP (socialists): 25 seats
VVD (liberal conservatives): 22 seats
PvdV (anti-Muslim): 9 seats
GL (green left): 7 seats
CU (left-leaning Christian fundamentalists): 6 seats
D66 (political reform): 2 seats
SGP (conservative Christian fundamentalists): 2 seats
PvdD (animal rights): 2 seats

Source (in Dutch):
Off-site link, opens in new window Kiesraad: uitslag van de tweede kamerverkiezingen

Scroll down to October 26th for a visual representation of the results of the general elections in 2002, 2003 and 2006.
On-site link, opens in this window 06/11/26

On the left end of the political spectrum we have three major players, the PvdA (Labour), the SP (socialist) and GL (the Green Left). Before 2002, the PvdA had been in the government (with the very popular PM Wim Kok), but ever since Fortuyn and 2002 the party appears to have been searching for itself and its place in the bigger scheme of things. That the party lost the elections, after months of leading in the polls, doesn't seem to come as a real surprise to anyone. The socialist SP, a well-organised, populist, activist party who have been a strong voice in the opposition against the centre-right Balkenende cabinet, always does well in the polls but this time it managed to do equally well in the elections. The Green Left, with their tradition of nuance and intellectualism, will probably never have a wide, popular appeal though they seem to have a loyal following. The fact that Europe and the environment, two things that they hold strong opinions on, were pretty much non-issues in these elections probably didn't help.

The Christian parties aren't really on a left-to-right scale, since their first concern isn't the economy, the free market or big or small government. Let's just assume they're in the centre, shall we? The biggest player here is the Christian-democrat CDA, who lost a few seats in Parliament but still won the elections. SGP and CU are small Christian parties, the SGP slightly more fundamentalist than the CU, that cater to conservative Protestants. The CDA is a broader pro-family, norms and values Christian party with a left wing and a right wing. Jan-Peter Balkenende, the current PM, is a CDA member, and these last general elections confirmed the rule of thumb that the PM's party generally wins the elections. PM Balkenende is also taking credit for our improving economy, though this probably has more to do with the global economy than with anything that his cabinet did.

The two one-issue parties that won seats in these elections aren't really on a left-to-right scale either, so we might as well discuss them next. D66, the political reform party that won three seats, has been around since 1966. It's in favour of things like referenda and elected mayors (who are currently appointed by the Crown, though the selection is based on recommendations by the town council). They're also pro-education, pro-innovation and strong supporters of e-governance. The party was also part of the last Balkenende cabinet (needed because the other two parties in the cabinet didn't have a parliament majority) until it withdrew its support after the Hirsi Ali crisis, thus necessitating the general elections. Their electorate have been dwindling for years, probably mostly because, in their forty years of existence, they haven't actually achieved anything. The other one-issue party, the pro-animal rights PvdD that won two seats, is a newcomer. I seem to recall they made an unsuccessful bid for a parliament seat in the general elections of 2003, and they did make it this time.

On the right wing, we have the liberal-conservative VVD and the anti-Muslim PvdV. Some of the VVD electorate are culturally conservative, pro-family and norms and values. Others are more pragmatic, anti-taxes, pro-small government, pro-free market. The VVD was part of the Balkenende cabinet, together with the CDA and D66. PM Balkenende and his Christian-democrats got the credit for what the cabinet achieved, D66 got the blame for the cabinet's fall and the VVD got the blame for the cuts on social security and the other unpopular things that both successive Balkenende cabinets have done over the years. Prior to the elections, there had been a race for the political leadership between the hard-line immigration minister Rita Verdonk and the more moderate Mark Rutte, which was eventually won by Rutte. (Though Verdonk, second on the VVD's list of candidates, ended up getting more votes than Rutte in the elections.) At the far end of the political spectrum we lost the late Pim Fortuyn's LPF, who went from 8 seats in the 2003 elections to 0 in the last, and gained Geert Wilders' anti-Muslim PvdV who won 9 seats. Wilders used to be an MP for the VVD before striking out on his own.

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2006

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