Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:35:49 PM EST
Promoted & slightly edited by DoDo
As much as I appreciate living in the Netherlands, today I am not proud. Today, the Netherlands show once again their tremendous pettiness they can level against flamboyant persons and characters. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial member of parliament from the (right-wing) party VVD, who wrote the script of the equally controversial movie "Submission", resigned today from the Dutch parliament with an emotional speech, flanked by Minister of Finances Zalm (also VVD), who was similarly emotional.
Even pettier is that Ayaan, although she had already announced her upcoming departure from the Netherlands, is being sacrificed in the internal power-struggle within the VVD.
It's instructive to follow how Hirsi Ali seems to have ended up in the power struggle within the VVD between Rita Verdonk, the Minister of Integration, and Mark Rutte, now Secretary of Education.
Even as I write, Rita Verdonk, the mover behind this emotional storm, may find she has overplayed her card. The Dutch Parliament is wroth and a motion is in the making to change the course Verdonk has set - possibly creating a collision course which could even lead to the resignation of Verdonk. Although I personally think the latter is not likely to happen, this is a night of turmoil in The Hague.
Update [2006-5-17 3:43:11 by Nomad]:: As expected, Verdonk buckled under the motion and now needs to "reconsider" her conclusions. What this probably means is that she'll shelve the report, dig up more dirt and return after three to the parliament with the exact same conclusions... Bah.
The laughing third in this affair and completely absent this night is Mark Rutte, Secretary of Education. I'm fairly certain he has opened a bottle of champagne together with his campaign team and is watching the live feed of the debate within The Hague. It is Rutte who has been locked for the past weeks in a direct confrontation with Rita Verdonk for the party leadership of the VVD, to be chosen within the next weeks. And Rutte, a rising star within the VVD ranks, is probably one of the scariest people I've seen in current politics: he seems nice enough, he's young, has the looks, some debating skills and has buffed up his resume with smear attacks on the Labour party during the local election of past March, and is commercialising the higher education of the Netherlands following the Anglo-Saxon model. Mark Rutte is, in fact, a marketista through and through and should be kept from the steering wheel of the Netherlands as far as possible. Which is why I hope he will win the party leadership - for reasons I'll tell below.
In fact, the stir-up around Ayaan may be the key event leading to that and to Verdonk's downfall.
It all started the past weekend with a documentary by the public television, Zembla, wherein it was "revealed" that Hirsi Ali had received her citizenship under false pretences, using a different name than the one she was born with. Remarkably, in the book that Hirsi Ali wrote about her life and which was released in 2002, the first sentence reads that she was born in Somalia as Ayaan Hirsi Magan. Even more remarkable is that her e-mail address for the Dutch parliament is also Magan, but never mind all that.
The response of Rita Verdonk, the minister of Integration - who already had to face two votes of no confidence against her in parliament, which she survived by a hair's breadth - must be one of the fastest U-turns in political history. On Friday, she responded on the documentary that no investigation was needed for these new "facts", on Saturday she announced that an investigation would start and on Monday, that the investigation had been completed. A press release followed immediately, stating that Ayaan had most likely given a false name during her procedure to become a Dutch citizen and therefore, according to the letter of the law, her citizenship is scheduled to be revoked, barring further information. She has six weeks to respond, according to Verdonk.
Ayaan had little choice than to resign in this situation - and she did so this afternoon. In tears, but with her back straight. But that is not all. Ayaan, who admitted herself that she only has people either opposing her or supporting her, has driven splits deep within the VVD party which is now fracturing. Bibi de Vries (another of the Scary People around Mark Rutte) has openly called Verdonk's behaviour "insane" and has insinuated that if now something happens to Ayaan Verdonk will have blood on her hands. Verdonk has turned not only the opposition against her, but also CDA, the coalition partner of VVD, and most of the MPs of her own party. The only prominent parliament member loudly applauding the minister for her behaviour would be Nawijn, of LPF fame (the party of Pim Fortuyn) and who is openly working together with the nationalist (racist) Flemish party Vlaams Belang.
In the debate tonight, some remarkable facts stood out. Verdonk had informed the prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, prior to the investigation and prior to the release of the announcement. However, she did so the last time by leaving him a message on his voice mail, and not waiting for his response on this matter. Or did Verdonk not realise that the release would be hugely damaging for Hirsi Ali and did not see the implications it would have? I doubt it, and so did her own party, which had made her promise to wait with the release of the denouncing letter since it would immediately affect a prominent member of the VVD and MP. Yet Verdonk released the letter within one hour after the meeting, setting off the current chain of events. And it so appears that Rita Verdonk, although proudly VVD member herself, has not once sent an e-mail to Ayaan Hirsi Ali during her period as minister on Integration - which she declared angrily in her response to expressed disbelief by the opposition that Verdonk would not be aware of Ayaan's e-mail address. Verdonk now looks either hell-bent on destroying Ayaan's career or completely anti-social with the rest of her party, even with those working on Integration problems, such as Hirsi Ali!
Prominent members of her own party now denounce Verdonk's course of action and the word "incompetent" has been a favourite one this night. This coming from members of her own party, it is especially damning. Not surprisingly, these members will most likely sign for Mark Rutte as party-leader... I'd say, let them. Since if Mark Rutte will lead the VVD during election year next year, and will be crushed at the ballot box - his resignation would almost be a given. Rid of Verdonk and Mark Rutte within the span of a year. A man can dream, no?
But aside from Verdonk, Ayaan too is showing her true colours. She has decided to work for the American Enterprise Institute, as afew already flagged in the Breakfast thread. This being the think-tank that's so far to the right in the United States that I have no tag for it, the think-tank still endorsing the Iraq invasion, I begin to wonder where Ayaan's principles really lie.
The lessons of today: the Dutch politics are making a farce of themselves, Rita Verdonk has exposed herself even further as a xenophobic, border-line racist populist and Ayaan Hirsi Ali could be turning more islamophobic than is even healthy for her. Even so, losing her from the Dutch parliament I consider a loss for the Netherlands and her role in the debate on integrating Islam within the Netherlands in which she led the charge will be sorely missed.
I generally don't report on politics as it depresses me, but the Rutte-Verdonk-Ayaan triangulation was too insightful to leave it lying about. Now I need a drink...