I Haven't the Foggiest

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I Haven't the Foggiest

It's 2 a.m. here. I got in at around midnight from an interesting evening out, turned on the TV, and discovered that the government had collapsed.

Two hours later, this is what I think happened. Considering how little sense it makes, I'm hoping a kind Dutchman will explain what's really going on.

The Hirsi Ali drama is what brought down the government. As you may recall from my earlier posts, Minister for Integration (i.e., for kicking out asylum-seekers) Rita Verdonk suddenly "discovered" something that had been known for a while, namely that Hirsi Ali had used her mother's maiden name, rather than her father's name, when applying for asylum and (more important) when becoming a Dutch citizen. The story was that she did so for fear of being tracked down by the people in Somalia that she was running away from.

Having discovered this, Verdonk was "compelled" by the law to declare that Hirsi Ali was actually not a citizen, because she had lied in her citizenship application and when going through the formal acceptance of citizenship. So Hirsi Ali left parliament and moved to the U.S. to take a job at the American Enterprise Institute.

Meanwhile, Verdonk caught hell in parliament. She said she couldn't show favoritism just because Hirsi Ali was a member of her political party, but a lot of people seemed to think this was some sort of power play by Verdonk (I've never quite followed how this worked).

Then, recently, Verdonk said that Hirsi Ali was a Dutch citizen after all. It turns out, supposedly, that under Somali law, Hirsi Ali was entitled to use her maternal grandfather's name as her own, so she hadn't lied by giving that as her name when she became a citizen.

This is when it gets really bizarre. Apparently, Verdonk forced Hirsi Ali to sign a statement apologizing for having lied about having lied. I gather that Verdonk told her she would give her citizenship back only if Hirsi Ali signed the statement. This, of course, gives the lie to the notion that Verdonk was merely following the dictates of the law: if Hirsi Ali really was entitled to use that name, then she was a citizen, and it wasn't Verdonk's right to "give" her citizenship or not. The declaration said, I think, that Hirsi Ali was sorry that she had falsely said she had used a false name (in order to escape from her persecutors), when in fact she had used a different but legitimate name. So she's sorry for causing all this fuss.

That was finally enough for D66, the smallest of the three parties in the governing coalition. I can't figure out what D66 is, but I think they're basically for reform, good government, and other nice things. Verdonk is from the VVD, or Liberal Party, which is the second party in the coalition. The biggest party is the CDA, or Christian Democrats, including Prime Minister Balkenende. D66 issued an ultimatum to Balkenende: either Verdonk goes or we go. They say she abused her authority and cannot continue in her position. Balkenende called their bluff and said he wasn't ditching Verdonk. So D66 walked, the cabinet collapsed, and the coalition no longer has a majority. This means, I believe, that we're going to have an election soon--so much fun in a system where elections can happen at any time, rather than regularly every two or four years.

Anyway, that's the story as I understand it. And it makes no sense. So, obviously, I've got it completely wrong. Someone, please explain it to me.

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