On the Dutch Elections, Part Three

by Shaker Glauke

[Part One can be read here; Part Two can be read here.]

The New Dutch Government: the News Is Not Good
It looks as if, after the general elections in June yielded a very unclear result, and after two failed attempts at building a coalition, the Dutch will finally have a government before the end of the month.

There is no clear consensus among the electorate about either the problems or the solutions. The last two months the CDA and VVD (see footnote) have held negotiations with Geert Wilders' Freedom Party (FP). The basic idea: CDA and VVD would form the coalition government, and their policy agreements would be supported by FP, though FP is not part of government. This means that Wilders has free reign, and is not being made responsible for governing. He gets influence on policy without having to take actual responsibility.

Last week, the concept-agreement was published. There are some Christian Democrats in parliament who objected to working with FP, but it seems that it will come to pass. With a majority of 1 vote (76 out of 150 seats) in Parliament, they will start implementing their plans. I have been reading them over the weekend, and here is a selection of my likes and dislikes in the proposals.

The Likes
In Dutch we have the saying that even a non-working clock indicates the correct time twice a day. When you say a lot of words, you're liable to right about something.

The new coalition will develop concrete policy for the emancipation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Hate crimes will be penalised more severely. The Veteran's Law that's being devised in parliament will be introduced. (The Vet Law that the ministry of Defence had drafted wasn't as good for our veterans as the proposal from parliament. I don't know why that is either.) There is a paragraph on animal welfare, including the intention to promote alternatives to animal testing, and more effective strategies to combat illegal trade in exotic species and animal abuse. Part of that will come of 500 new specialised animal cops. A dedicated telephone number will be introduced where animal abuse can be reported. The availability of GPs will be improved. The quality of surface water will be improved, particularly in urban areas. This is an important statement, because in our current implementation of the European Framework Directive on Water Quality, very little attention is paid to this. Criminal law for adolescents will be introduced. I'm tentatively labeling it good news, because I hope it means a focus on socialisation and treatment of the various psychological problems that underlie much of the criminality, but I'm not yet sure that's the case, though. Minimum age for being a sex worker is moved up to 21. Human trafficking will be investigated more, and prosecuted more heavily. The statute of limitations on violent crime and sexual abuse will be increased.

The Dislikes
Among the dislikes, these are the ones that really rattled my nerves. This is however, a selection.

Government will consider new mission requests from NATO (read: for a mission in Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan). However, these missions are likely to be mixed military-civilian, which is bad at least for the civilians. Adding insult to injury, these missions will increasingly be funded from development aid funds—funds that are already being slashed. The army will also become a full partner in the struggle (AD: note they're not using the word war here!) against drugs, terrorism, illegal immigration and piracy.

There is no ambition on safeguarding our national landscapes. There will be no saving natural habitats beyond what is completely mandatory under EU law. Construction in the Green Heart will be allowed, sacrificing an important piece of cultural historical landscape.

Animal welfare is mentioned, though it's made clear that it will only be pursued in European context. National legislation will not be made.

Diseases with a "low burden" will no longer be covered in the basic health care package. The number of IVF treatments covered in the basic health care package will be reduced to one. I mention this one because my SO has psoriasis, or more accurately arthritis psiariatica. His current (expensive) medication allows him to function normally, but it bars us from conceiving naturally. IVF was our back up plan. I'm a little afraid what this will mean for us. But then, I have a tendency to be afraid.

Which brings us to:

Psychological problems are treated in two 'lines' of care, first line for not-so-heavy problems, the second line for heavier problems that require more and more specialised care. The premium for first line care will be upped, and premiums will be introduced for second line care. The number of visits covered will be decreased to five. If a patient doesn't show up for hir appointment, zhie will have to pay for it personally.

The central goal of the new immigration policy will be a decrease of the number of immigrants, unless of course they are 'knowledge workers'. Illegal residence will be made a criminal offence. The eviction of undocumented aliens is supposed to take place more often (side note: because I worked for the organisation responsible for such evictions as a temp I know what a hairy, difficult process it is, and how unlikely to succeed). A naturalised citizen is required to (attempt to) relinquish hir other nationality. If zhie commits a grave crime, zhie shall lose hir Dutch citizenship. I assume this means rendering hir stateless.

The options for preventive searching will be widened. There will be more camera surveillance. The intake of TBS will be decreased. TBS used to a point of pride for me: when a person cannot be held responsible for hir crimes because zhie was suffering from a mental illness, zhie could receive treatment as part of the 'punishment'. Government will prepare a privatisation of the prison system.

The Quiet
There are many things CDA, VVD, and FP discussed. But there are a couple of things they are eerily quiet about. Climate change stands out. FP is (of course, of course) in the denier-camp. VVD has been moving in that direction, too. CDA, I'm not sure where they stand. With the agro-industrial complex, I guess. Which is why the European fishery policy is mentioned, but overfishing isn't.

Finally, the hypotheekrenteaftrek, which translates loosely into mortgage interest return. When you take a mortgage to buy a house, you get the interest back from the government. This outragous scheme benefits people with large houses more than it does low-income people, and costs the government approximately 9 billion a year. Yet this arrangement is left intact. Oh, and although animal welfare is mentioned, CAFOs are not. Really odd, that.

CDA: Christian-Democrats, centre right, mostly Christian, some Muslim members.
VVD: economically liberal, socially conservative-leaning.
Freedom Party: one member, Geert Wilders, formerly VVD. Profoundly anti-Muslim, tough on immigration and crime, but soft on issues like elderly care.

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