Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dutch elections, politics, terror, immigration and the same nonsense

In a report out today, the Dutch national anti-terrorism ‘supremo’, Erik Akkerboom, warns that Muslim extremists could highlight aspects of the campaign to make the Netherlands look like a country that is generally hostile to Muslims. This could spark strong reactions, especially on the internet. Mr Akkerboom further warns that violence could also come from left-wing radicals or animal rights activists.

With the murder in mind of Pim Fortuyn just days before the 2002 election, the security services will be concentrating on radicalised individuals of every ilk. Nevertheless Mr Akkerboom admits that no concrete threats have been made as yet.

Meanwhile, some focuses on the costs of the election campaign. Apparently, the amount spent on Dutch election campaigns is ‘peanuts’, costing less than 75 eurocents per voter, compared to ten euros in Belgium. And nowhere near the amount spent in the United States. No election-circus in the Netherlands.
That’s just as well, because few voters actually decide which party to vote for on the basis of the campaigns. “It’s the amount of attention they get in the media that counts,” says a communications professor from Amsterdam University.
The important thing is the element of surprise – perhaps a soundbite which gets picked up by the media and sticks. For instance, Christian Democrat leader Jan Peter Balkenende accused Labour leader Wouter Bos of “turning” during a televised debate back in 2006 - the image has stuck until this day. So, in spite of the anti-terrorism coordinator’s warnings, political leaders may be tempted nonetheless to conduct a fierce debate.


Still on the subject of politic, it looks like Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party has finally got what it wanted – figures on the cost of immigration. The preliminary findings of a survey – carried out for the party - into 20,000 non-western immigrants will be released end of April but some information already leaked to the press. Findings which indicate that the flow of these immigrants into the Netherlands costs the country somewhere between six and ten billion euros a year.
But Geert Wilders points out that this is a conservative estimate: “The real costs are much higher.”
As a result the party thinks immigration should be stopped, or at least severely limited, especially as the next government will have to make serious spending cuts. “This won’t hurt citizens, you don’t have to send anyone away,” says Mr Wilders. Also scientists came to the same conclusion, but it would be wisely to use the data with care. And not to stigmate a certain group.
The apparent reasons why this group of immigrants costs more are that they are more likely to receive social welfare benefits and become involved in crime. On the other hand, they are less likely to use childcare facilities or student grants.
The study was commissioned by the Freedom Party itself, after Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan refused to put a price on immigration. But according others, the party should be careful about taking a strong anti-Muslim stance. Following the recent local elections, its demand for a ban on headscarves in public buildings has led to it being left out of coalition talks aimed at creating local executives. The party has since slid down the opinion polls because of its failure to compromise and take political responsibility in the two major municipalities where it fielded candidates.

Day Opening - April 7

Windmill in the Holland (not so typical Dutch)