Have you been losing much sleep over the current political climate in the Netherlands? Well, I hope not. I’m still trying to keep up. And though it’s seems pretty concerning, I also haven’t been losing sleep over it (yet).
Remember back in February when the government collapsed? The main issue there was Afghanistan. Should the troops extend their stay or return home, already later than originally planned. At the time, the party that was center right, the Christian Democrats, had the majority of seats, with the center left Labor Party at a close second. Out of 150 seats in Parliament, they had 41 and 33 respectively. It was a coalition government, meaning despite opposing politics, issues were only resolved with consensus. The system seems to work most of the time for the Dutch. But obviously when it fails, it’s a really stinky (read: shit) storm. They decided emergency elections would be held in June. And I imagined a better, stronger, and much more liberal government would emerge – just in time for my arrival.
I guess I was naïve to think the Dutch were all on board for a move toward left of center politics. In all of my time romanticizing Amsterdam and its illusions of freedom, I failed to consider the other side of that coin. And isn’t there always another side to these coins? How would they have even survived in the EU if they weren’t bringing fair representation of the conservative folks?
So anyway, much to my surprise, the emergency elections, held last week, resulted in a rise in power for a far right party, the Freedom Party, and a slight drop in power for the Labor Party. That means the somewhat liberals are still ahead in the game, but the over the top conservatives just scored one or two surprising points. And the Freedom Party really is over the top with it. The leader, Geert Wilders, is anti-immigration (uh oh), and generally anti-Islam – to the point of wanting to ban the Koran and proposing a special tax on wearing head scarves. He’s made it clear that the Netherlands does not necessarily have to be a welcoming place for “others.” Now I know there are always a few who will insist on promoting hate and discrimination. But who would have thought such an extremist would gain a legitimate following? To the point where there’s a (slight) possibility that the Freedom Party may be a part of the newest coalition government?
Last week’s election not only led to a surge for the Freedom Party – the Christian Democrats took a crazy hit, falling from 41 to win only 21 seats. So they’re not even a factor anymore. And coming out of nowhere (well, as far as I’m concerned), the pro-business Liberal party ended up with the most popular support. And now due to the close race between the Liberals and the Labors, with the two parties earning 31 and 30 seats respectively, a power struggle is still at play. The less than friendly “i-hate-everybody-else” Wilders is insisting that his Freedom party is included in the coalition to be formed by the Liberals, saying “one-and-a-half million Dutch voted for us and for more security, less crime and less Islam.” Reading his poetic words, I see why so many had trouble resisting him.
I say that in jest, of course. The more I read about Wilders, the more creeped out I feel. If his party is given just a little bit of a voice in the new Dutch government, I fear the country would be taking a crazily conservative turn. I think the Dutch have a lot more on their minds than whether or not I’ll be able to benefit from their social programs as an immigrant, like maybe their struggling economy. So I’m trying not to judge too much without knowing enough of the facts and the many layers that must have been considered during the past several months of upheaval. So perhaps it’s not quite as horrifying a political change of climate as it seems.
But the whole situation is kinda stinking up another storm. And as a future immigrant, I’ve got my eye on this Wilders character. That’s for sure.