Dutch Voters Turn To The Right

Dutch Voters Turn To The Right
Posted by CN Staff on May 16, 2002 at 13:59:04 PT
By Arthur Max, Associated Press Writer
Source: Associated Press
Dutch voters veered to the right after eight years of progressive social policy, giving a surprisingly wide victory to the opposition Christian Democrats and a new anti-immigration party whose charismatic leader was assassinated last week. With the vote count completed, the Christian Democrats won 43 seats -- a gain of 14 seats in the 150-member parliament -- followed by 26 for the upstart party founded by the assassinated populist Pim Fortuyn. 
Jan Peter Balkenende, a 46-year-old Christian Democrat philosophy professor who has voiced distaste with the Dutch policies allowing euthanasia, gay marriages and tolerance of soft drugs, was likely to be the next prime minister. Fortuyn's party chose Mat Herben, a 49-year-old former journalist and Defense Ministry spokesman, to lead the party, well positioned to negotiate its way into the next coalition. After meeting his new legislators, Balkenende said he wanted to complete the arduous task of coalition building quickly. "It shouldn't take more than a few weeks," he said, but he refused to discuss who his potential partners might be. The outcome of Wednesday's vote was a stinging defeat for Prime Minister Wim Kok's Labor Party and its two coalition allies, which dropped from a total of 97 seats to 54. Forging a rightist coalition would mean the inclusion of the novice legislators from Pim Fortuyn's List, seen as an unstable group lacking a cohesive ideology. Speaking immediately after his selection as party leader, Herben sought to reassure the country that his party would act responsibly in power. "For us, the most important thing to do is not to shake up the country. We already did that," he said. "We want to create a stable government so we can realize the aims of the party." After the stunning results were announced late Wednesday, Balkenende told cheering supporters he was ready to begin forming a government. "Citizens want a different kind of politics," he said. His plainspoken manner was seen as a refreshing change from the staid professional politicians of the three-way center-left coalition that ran Holland for eight years. His public appeal has been heightened by the good nature with which he has taken ribbing about his likeness to the movie character Harry Potter, with his brushed-down hair and round glasses. Asked about the similarity, he joked that "now everyone knows what the new leader of the Christian Democrats looks like," but the problems of the Netherlands were too complex for a magic wand. Christian Democrats participated in every Dutch government after World War II until they lost power in 1994. The most likely coalition to take office would be a three-party alliance of Christian Democrats, Pim Fortuyn's List and the free-market Liberals, which would command a comfortable 92 seats in the Second Chamber, the dominant body of parliament. It could take several weeks for the parties to reach a common government policy, with no guarantee of success. Party leaders began contacting each other and Queen Beatrix on Thursday to start the negotiations. Fortuyn's followers were overjoyed by the outcome -- an unprecedented showing for a new party in Dutch politics. However, even party members acknowledged questions how solid a government with the Fortuyn faction would be. "Until now the (Fortuyn party) has not been very stable. Opinions change and people leave," said Maxine Verhagen, who is to take a seat in parliament with the List. Balkenende said he would explore a possible partnership with Fortuyn's party, known as the LPF. "The voter gave the LPF a huge mandate," he said. But it still needs to choose a new leadership, he said, and then "we have to see how they act in the negotiations." Kok's two four-year terms saw the economy grow faster than most in Europe, but his government failed to recognize public discontent with the rising tide of immigration and crime -- and public services that didn't match the country's wealth. "Let's be realistic. The voters gave us a huge thrashing. The people of the Netherlands have made a different choice," said Kok, who previously announced his retirement from politics. Labor leader Ad Melkert resigned, saying "the message of the voter was loud and clear." Fortuyn tapped a groundswell of discontent with the ruling politicians and the country's swelling immigrant population, especially Muslims, who many feel have refused to adopt Dutch ways and assimilate into society. Fortuyn called for closing Dutch borders to more immigrants. He was killed May 6 by a lone gunman after a campaign radio interview. His assassination shocked this country of 16 million, which had long prided itself in consensus politics and seemed immune to political violence. The swing in the Netherlands was the latest in a tilt to the right by voters across Europe. Conservative parties have made gains in Denmark, Italy, Portugal, and most dramatically in France, where right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen fought his way into the second round of the presidential race. Although Balkenende and most of his party opposed legislation last year to legalize euthanasia and gay marriages, his spokesman said he would not try to repeal those laws. "Balkenende sees it as an irreversible fact," said Hans van der Vlies. Balkenende hoped to begin a movement to end the sale of marijuana in hundreds of so-called coffee-shops, a practice that is technically illegal but not prosecuted. Like other parties, the Christian Democrats have promised to tighten immigration policies and promote the integration of newcomers. It has demanded that all immigrants demonstrate knowledge of the national anthem, and would require refugees to pay a large deposit before being allowed to bring a spouse to the Netherlands. The deposit would be refunded only after the partner completes an assimilation course on Dutch language and culture. Complete Title: Dutch Voters Turn To The Right, Choosing Conservative Newcomers in National Elections Newshawk: R. S.Source: Associated PressAuthor: Arthur Max, Associated Press WriterPublished: Thursday, May 16, 2002 Copyright: 2002 Associated Press Related Articles:Amsterdam's Smokin' Coffee Shops Real Sin City of Amsterdam 
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Comment #11 posted by 2Spooky on May 17, 2002 at 07:34:19 PT
Get it while you can
He says he is going to stop letting the cafes sell pot. What do you think the reaction to that will be?
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Comment #10 posted by RavingDave on May 16, 2002 at 22:32:11 PT
Personal Inspection
I agree that the Dutch are most worried about the open floodgates of immigration. The Moroccan influx has given rise to all sorts of problems, especially in Amsterdam.I'm going over there in a week, as well. I'll be checking into the situation, and maybe looking to relocate back there. (Never should have left, I think.) I'll be thinking about you all while kicking back in the park with a yummy space cake. Insider's tip: Homegrown Fantasy has the strongest and best-tasting space cake, but it's imperative to eat only one slice!
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Comment #9 posted by E_Johnson on May 16, 2002 at 18:32:46 PT
It's the fault of the left
The left in Europe is still hooked on ideological answers to common problems and cannot answer a lot of practical questions about immigration with anything other than accusations of genocide.
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Comment #8 posted by BGreen on May 16, 2002 at 18:25:19 PT
I'll give you a firsthand report in two weeks
I will, most assuredly, discuss this with as many people as I can when I'm over there, and I'll let everybody know what the Dutch people are saying.
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Comment #7 posted by MikeEEEEE on May 16, 2002 at 18:02:24 PT
Simple Economics
The dutch can't afford a long expensive drug war.
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Comment #6 posted by Hopeful Freeman on May 16, 2002 at 17:27:31 PT
Dutch vs. United States of War
We have been at war for over 3 decades. Around the same time our war started the dutch took a different approach, they LOOKED at the research and TRUE public opinions. They advised the situation be taken to a somewhat understandable level with logic. They took what they knew to be truth and put some policy behind it. Now I'm sure that the "Christian Democrats" didn't like the idea of Gods gift to the world being available without punishment, but none the less it happened. But apparently they aren't true listeners of Christ. How can they be against any type of marrige that involves love? How can they be against a plant that signals natural cannabinoid recepters(which has always been in humans brains, even Christ) and relaxes the body to a happy and able state of mind? Despite logic, life seems to move strangely. In the US billions of dollars have been spent to raid peaceful citizens residences, attack doctors offices and prosicute doctors who have been consintrating on preserving well being in life around them despite tyranis demands. We have had more people go to jail and lives ruined because of the mystical plant cannabis, than the entire 16 million population of the dutch. It is quite possible that the dutch will become an anti-weed county, but as krutch pointed out money is quite an issue. In fact it is the reason the US hasn't legalized. There is money to be made during war. Enough money to corrupt officals for centuries, however, life moves in unexpected ways. Maybe one day all the little potheads in this land will truly rise again. This time we shall be joined by poeple who don't do it, but can see between the lies. For now we must do what we can, spread the knowledge of the lies tyrany creates and hope will rise with truth. The more people understand the willfulness of Americans again than maybe we can bring a change like the Dutch. Not a change against marijuana but a change toward it. Logically speaking we should be British, but Tryany can lead to great men doing amaizing things. Even Illegal things. We can be somewhat political still, we can Vote. We can show this conservative county that people can still make a change. Godspeed America, and may we all have the courage to shake our hand at backwards laws and powerfully dangerous men.
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on May 16, 2002 at 17:12:51 PT
Toothpaste won't go back in the tube
No way they're going to roll back any MJ policy. It's been 25 years, people won't go back now. No worries.I would guess that of all this guy's right-wing stances, it was the immigration that got the most votes, not the drugs, euthanasia & gay marriage. Holland's got tons of people from North Africa & elsewhere flooding in.
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Comment #4 posted by p4me on May 16, 2002 at 16:43:24 PT
CBS Evening News
I just heard the numbers out of Dan Rather's mouth and wanted to mention that 28.5% of high school students smoke tobacco. This is the lowest level in 10 years and attributable to anti-smoking campaigns and higher prices for cigarettes. Some war on drugs. Drug test for marijuana and put a cigarette machine in the high school lobby. That's all folks.
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Comment #3 posted by SpaceCat on May 16, 2002 at 14:47:38 PT
"These are the times..."
Hopefully this will become a flash point for the movement. Balkenende certainly doesn't have carte blanche, and any kind of move would depend on a shaky consensus. There are so many coffee shops that it would be difficult to move quickly in any case. This is the kind of moment in history where the oppressed can stand up and say "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!" and through our numbers and the rightness of our cause demand the attention of the mainstream, possibly forging a new reality (at least in the Netherlands) where the shops don't exist in a legal netherworld, but are accepted for what they are: benign contributors to the economy, providing a needed service peacefully, safely, and normally. 
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Comment #2 posted by krutch on May 16, 2002 at 14:45:35 PT:
Don't worry. Dutch voters will never put up with the loss of tourism that will result in the closing of the coffee shops. I predict that pot remain legal in Holland to spite this clown's efforts.
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Comment #1 posted by Naaps on May 16, 2002 at 14:27:05 PT
Book Your Flights Now!
Does this spell the end of traveling to Amsterdam to experience soft drug tolerance?From the article, “Jan Peter Balkenende, a 46-year-old Christian Democrat philosophy professor who has voiced distaste with the Dutch policies allowing euthanasia, gay marriages and tolerance of soft drugs, was likely to be the next prime minister.”Further, “Balkenende hoped to begin a movement to end the sale of marijuana in hundreds of so-called coffee-shops, a practice that is technically illegal but not prosecuted.”Tolerance and diversity are desirable qualities, which increasingly are under pressure worldwide. This news is very disheartening. Hopefully, the strength of the coalition government isn’t enough to allow toppling the freedom that makes The Netherlands special.
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