Local Heart, Global Soul

March 5, 2010

Rocking the Political boat… …tsunami style.

I don’t tell people who I vote for, but it won’t take much for you to work out at least who I didn’t vote for.

The results for yesterdays elections are in and for me it’s a big disappointment to see that Geert Wilders’s far-right party (PVV) has come first as a percentage of the over-all vote in Almere and second in the vote in the Hague.

These were actually the only two areas of the Netherlands where this party put up PVV candidates, and to see this result  in Almere (a city slightly east of Amersterdam) and in the Hague where I live,  does not bode well for their plans to field more candidates in other areas in the National General Election that will be held in a few months time.

If you look at the policies of Wilder’s on a very shallow level, then yes, I agree ( as would most people) that people who wish to make The Netherlands their Home, should learn the language and do their best to integrate into society and function as normal Dutch citizens.

I also think that people who come here and demand that Dutch society be instead be integrated  into the way of their country, is unreasonable: no country should compromise  it’s identity and change for the few that think that compromise is a one way street that means only that your new country should bend to your wishes.

And yes, if you choose to live in another country and then you discover you don’t like it’s society, then maybe it’s  time for you to move and go somewhere that suits you better.

Fortunately, the extremist views of a small number of   immigrants, are just that… the views of a few. The vast majority are instead, law abiding citizens who work hard, fit in, pay taxes and enjoy the freedom and lifestyle that the Netherlands has to offer. They are the silent majority, and whilst they don’t always blend in to the stereotypical  Dutch prototype visually, they contribute just as much as their Dutch counterparts to society in general.

Geert Wilder’s campaigns under an “Anti- Islamisation of the Netherlands” theme,  and he is apparently not anti-immigration, but rather is blatantly Anti-Islam. In fact, he is currently waiting trial for an alleged hate speech against Muslims, and for calling Islam a fascist religion and comparing the Koran with Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Look deeper and the tone of Wilder’s policies and rhetoric is darker than it first seems, there is little or no tolerance,  all Muslims would be tarred with the same brush, generalized and in his world, preferably also ostracized and expelled.

So, how has the famously tolerant Dutch society come to this ? For many, what they saw as the last straw that broke the camels back was the murder of  Theo Van Gogh  by muslim extremist Mohammed Bouyeri,  in an Amsterdam street back  in 2004.  Yes I agree that that act was despicable,  but isn’t tarring an entire section of society with one brush because of it, taking things too far?

I worry that  in the coming general election, the PVV party, lead by Wilder’s will put up more candidates.  If they should attract the vote as these have done in yesterdays election then our offices of power, who are supposed to govern in the interests of all Dutch citizens, will instead, be visibly partial to some and not to others.

It matters less who is the favoured and who is the target, the idea of  two tier society, where one has favour over the other is a slippery path  for any person in governmental responsibility to step out on.

Against extremists, of any creed, colour or ideology there will always have to be measures, but I fear that a giant wedge is coming to our country, that will be driven between friends, colleagues, neighbours and families. People who get on well, but just have a different religion, neither forcing anything down each other throats who accept each other as human beings rather than as “brand X” or Brand Y” religion.

Where is our ability to bring together a blend of peoples and to live harmoniously together? Why not embrace our differences, extend our knowledge and just work hard together for the life and freedoms that we enjoy here”

For me the deepest worry is also: if one sector of society is willing to marginalize another and that becomes standard practice:  then where might it end?

Democracy is important, but so too is the thinking, inquiring, diverse multi-cultural mind: if society is only made up of clones of me and my point of view, then what’s the point?

I hope that the The Netherlands is not headed into this kind of division. It would be like stepping back to black and white TV after enjoying decades of brilliant colour.

March 4, 2010

Cast your vote upon the waters…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yesterday was the national voting day for Dutch municipal elections.  Almost  9,000 council  positions in 394 municipalities throughout the country are  up for grabs and these election are seen as a good barometer for the Parlimentary Elections due to be held on the 9th of June 2010.

For those of you who don’t know, 12 days ago, the Dutch Government fell, after one of the coalition partners (PvaA) lead by Wouter Bos withdrew from the national government  in a row with the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s (CDA)  party over a proposed extension of  the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan.

Politics are therefore hotting up in The Netherlands. Even the Dutch version of Google had a ballot box theme today.

Polling stations opened as early as  06:30 in the morning and most closed at 20:00  in the evening (although a few have permission to stay open until midnight in some areas)

Wednesday evening as I type this, it seems that voter turnout has been higher than last election, running over 30% by mid morning,  however the true turnout won’t be known until after polling stations close, and results will take a few days.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In the end, does my vote make a difference to the way that the country will be run? In truth, I don’t really know. But I do know that if I don’t vote that that will make a difference. Democracy’s survival depends on people at least being interested enough in taking part in the election of the Government of the day and it’s my belief that if they are not that interested then they may well one day wake up to find themselves under the leadership of dictatorship or tyranny in another shape or form.

So, no matter who you vote for, don’t forget to pick up your red pencil, turn up to make your mark and keep democracy alive.

I take a fairly average interest in politics, I try and keep up on the most major of issues but sadly just don’t have the time to delve deeper. I will however give you (with the vast help of Wikipedia) a quick summary of the parties that make up Dutch Politics.

Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA) is a Christian Democratic party. Supports free enterprise, holds the principle that government activity should supplement but not supplant communal action by citizens. CDA sees its philosophy as standing between the individualism of the VVD and the statism of the Labour Party. The CDA favours European economic, cultural and political integration. The party is led by Prime Minister of the Netherlands Jan Peter Balkenende. The CDA is a member of the Centrist Democrat International.

Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA, Labour Party), a European social democratic party, is left of center.It’s based on greater social, political, and economic equality for all citizens. Former PvdA-prime minister Joop den Uyl has called it an “equal distribution of knowledge, income and power.” In recent years the PvdA has espoused a Third way(centrism)way program. The PvdA is generally supportive of European integration. Although called the Labour Party, it has no formal links to the trade unions. In practice, however, strong links exist, with PvdA politicians often beginning their careers in the Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging labour union. The party is led by Wouter Bos. The PvdA is a member of the Socialist International.

Socialistische Partij (Socialist Party) (SP) is a left-wing party. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was a People’s Republic of China -supported Maoist party, but in 1991 the SP dropped its communist course, and became more independent, less radical socialist course, denouncing Maoism and the People’s Republic of China. The party opposes what it sees as the European Superstate. The SP operates as an independent party within the European United Left–Nordic Green Left in the European Parliament. Agnes Kant is the leader of the SP.

Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD/ (Folks) People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) is a conservative liberal party. It attaches great importance to private enterprise and the freedom of the individual in political, social, and economic affairs. The party is generally supportive of European economic integration, but is less supportive of political integration. The VVD is generally seen as the most right wing of the major parties, though the Pim Fortuyn List took a position to the right of the VVD. Mark Rutte leads the VVD. The VVD is a member of the Liberal International

Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom) is a right-wing populist party. It was erected by Geert Wilders who split from the VVD in 2004. The PVV opposes the European Islamization and seeks to limit taxation. It is also Eurosceptic and seeks to limit immigration.

GroenLinks combines, as the name (GreenLeft) suggests, Green politics with left-wing ideals. It operates to the left of the PvdA. The party was founded in 1989 as a merger of a left-radical, communist, pacifist and a leftwing Christian party. In 2004, the party leader “Femke Halsema” announced she saw her own party as a leftwing liberal party, possibly breaking with its socialist roots. Like D66, it is a multiculturalist party. GroenLinks is in favour of European integration, but opposes the current policies of the European Union. GroenLinks is a member of the Global Greens.

ChristenUnie (Christian Union) is a Christian party, which mostly concentrates on ethical issues, ie) resistance against abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage. In other areas (e.g. immigration and the environment), the party often is closer to the left-wing parties. It is Euro-sceptic about European integration. The CU operates within the Independence and Democracy group within the European Parliament and is a founding member of the European Christian Political Movement. André Rouvoet leads the party.

Democraten 66 (D66, Democrats66) has had widely fluctuating electoral fortunes since the party’s founding in 1966. It is a centrist left-liberal and radical democratic party, generally portrayed as between the VVD and GroenLinks, with its strongest support among young, urban, professional voters. It professes a pro-European platform of ethnic and religious tolerance. Alexander Pechtold leads the party. D66 is a member of the Liberal International.

Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals) is a single-issue animal rights party. It is led by Marianne Thieme

Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP) is a very conservative Christian party, with even stronger ethical points of view than the ChristenUnie. Although a very small party on a national level, it is an important political power in some orthodox reformed municipalities. The party sees governments (local, regional, national and international) as unconditional servants of God. The party bases all of its views directly on the Bible. The party opposes European integration and operates within the Independence and Democracy group. “Bas van der Vlies leads the SGP.

Onafhankelijke Senaatsfractie (OSF, Independent Senate Group) is a parliamentary party in the Dutch Senate with one senator, representing several provincial parties.

Trots op Nederland (Proud of the Netherlands) is the proposed political movement associated with independent parliamentarian and former government minister Rita Verdonk.

Solidara formed as a one-person party in the Senate by Düzgün Yildirim on October 2, 2007. He was formerly a member of the Socialist Party.

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