Cabinet crisis as D66 demands Verdonk resigns
29 June 2006
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch coalition government is in crisis after junior partner D66 sided with a motion of no confidence in Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk.
Out-going D66 parliamentary party leader Lousewies van der Laan said on Thursday morning that her party would collapse the government if Verdonk doesn’t resign. Van der Laan told parliament her party was not trying to bring down the government but Verdonk could not stay on after her “performance” in relation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Verdonk was supported by her own Liberal Party (VVD) and the Christian Democrats (CDA) of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The Cabinet is to announce its reaction to the D66 demand at 2pm.
Balkenende faces the untimely demise of his second government if both sides stick to their guns. His first fell apart after 87 days in 2002.
The current crisis arises from Verdonk’s handling of the Ayaan Hirsi Ali naturalisation affair.
Somali-born Hirsi Ali, a staunch critic of Islam, resigned as a Liberal MP in mid-May when Verdonk cast doubt on her right to hold a Dutch passport. Hirsi Ali announced she is moving to the US. The Netherlands faced severe criticism in the international press for what was presented as an attempt to silence her.
The green-left GroenLinks (GL) tabled the motion of no confidence after a marathon debate that started on Wednesday night and ran to 5.30am.
D66, Labour (PvdA), the Socialist Party (SP) and small Christian group ChristenUnie sided with the motion because they was not satisfied with Verdonk’s defence of her actions. It was suggested Verdonk was more concerned about saving face than sorting out the political mess she created.
The Liberal Party (VVD) said resignation by Verdonk was “completely unacceptable”. Out-going leader Willibrord van Beek indicated her departure would only come about with the collapse of the entire government. “Together out, together home,” he said. His CDA counterpart Maxime Verhagen agreed resignation was “unthinkable”. The motion was defeated 79-64.
The debate was called after Verdonk’s letter on Tuesday to announce Hirsi Ali is a Dutch citizen. An attached statement, written by Verdonk’s staff but signed by Hirsi Ali, absolved Verdonk of any blame for suggesting in May that Hirsi Ali’s naturalisation in 1997 was invalid.
Verdonk based her initial judgement on a two-day investigation sparked by a documentary in which Hirsi Ali repeated an earlier confession that she used a misleading name and date of birth to get asylum in the Netherlands in 1992.
Her name is actually Ayaan Hirsi Magan. Ali was the name of her grandfather. She is known in the Netherlands and around the world as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In the first marathon debate on the issue in May, Verdonk insisted she had no option but to “observe” Hirsi Ali’s naturalisation was invalid because of the incorrect name.
MPs of most parties disagreed and passed motions calling on her to ensure Hirsi Ali remained a Dutch citizen. Verdonk was campaigning to become parliamentary party leader of the VVD at the time. She lost.
Following a further investigation and a meeting of top ministers, Verdonk sent the letter and statement to say Hirsi Ali is Dutch but it was all her own fault that this had been in doubt.
Left-wing MPs were critical of Verdonk in the first portion of Wednesday’s debate, while the government MPs limited their contributions to asking for clarification on certain issues. But when Verdonk’s turn came to speak she angered the Left further by continuing to deny she had done anything wrong.
Balkenende told parliament that he supported Verdonk’s letter and the drafting of the statement for Hirsi Ali because of its legal significance.
Then, he accidentally dug a deeper hole for his minister when he inadvertently suggested Hirsi Ali’s statement had to be one Verdonk “could live with”. Later in the morning he said he had misspoken.
UPDATE: Balkenende announced the fall of his government shortly after 8.30pm on Thursday.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news