Seems like 2010 has been the year of disaster. Feels like bad news, big and small, has been popping up everywhere. Earthquakes, suicides, brutal storms, deadly accidents, overdrawn bank accounts, the list goes on. Shoot, Earth has literally shifted its axis by 3 inches. Although it seems to have no noticeable impact, it’s insane!
Well, the Netherlands is not exempt. Last week the government collapsed. While the Queen was on vacation, she got a call from the Prime Minister notifying her of the government’s resignation. And that leads to a collapsed government, for sure. What led to the resignation is what makes me think a move to the Netherlands is right for me. Dysfunction is great, especially when it results from people standing up for what’s right.
Turns out the dispute was over whether or not Dutch troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan. They currently have almost 2,000 troops over there, resulting from an already extended stay that was scheduled to end before the end of 2010. But after NATO asked for its members to keep troops in Afghanistan for even longer, supporting Obama’s deployment of something like 30,000 more U.S. troops, the Prime Minister was ready to agree and the Labor Party said “hell no.” Dutch people, along with almost everyone else, are tired of war and losing young soldiers (21 Dutch soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan). And when the Labor Party refused to compromise by even allowing a modified number of soldiers to stay, an agreement couldn’t be reached. The consensus-requiring nature of the government resulted in the Labor Party completely pulling out. Sounds incredibly dramatic and mostly sad. But the bright side is all of the Dutch troops will be heading home before the end of this year, as promised. No compromises.
I’ve been doing my homework on the Dutch government, originally to see with which of their political parties I would most likely align myself. But learning that the government just happens to topple over every once in a while made me want to really understand it. The basic story is that the government was set up to allow for equal representation and general consensus. The cabinet is made up of a coalition of three of the larger parties, the Christian Democratic Appeal (more right wing and led by the Prime Minister), the Labor Party (more to the left), and the ChristianUnion (smaller and somewhere in the middle). The Socialist Party and People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (way more conservative than it sounds) are the 3rd and 4th largest parties; but they’re not represented in this coalition – don’t quite understand that yet. When these folk get together to decide on the tough issues, they’re supposed to discuss and debate until a decision is reached. Since they’re all supposed to agree and speak publicly in favor of cabinet decisions, any member who doesn’t agree (and I guess is willing to stand up for it) is required to step down. They are serious with it. So when CDA and Labor couldn’t agree on the Afghanistan question, and Labor was willing to stand up for it, Labor Party members had to step down. And since it’s a coalition of the 3 parties, it can’t continue with the numbers so dramatically in favor of the democratic christian guys. So they all had to resign, consequently ruining the Queen’s vacation, I’m sure.
I’m getting the general sense that Dutch people are against the Prime Minister wanting to support NATO’s request, and in favor of the Labor Party’s stance. But I plan to do more reading of the Dutch newspapers (thank goodness for Google Translate!) to get a better sense of what the people are actually saying. I’m sure it’s quite messy and seems pretty worrisome. People are probably more concerned about the lack of stable government than they are relieved that their troops are coming home. But coming from a country that is willingly sending thousands more to Afghanistan this year, I’m thrilled at the prospect of moving to a country that prioritizes peace even when power is at stake.