Minor defeat for Balkenende

Prime minister Balkenende continues to have an unlucky hand. Today, parliament chairwoman Verbeet (PvdA) rejected his proposal to discuss exactly which political issues are too sensitive to be discussed by government.

Because the Balkenende IV government has become “demissionary,” it cannot treat politically sensitive issues any more under Dutch constitutional custom. The question, of course, is exactly which issues are deemed sensitive enough to fall under this ban.

Balkenende had invited the chairs of the Second Chamber and the Senate, as well as the parliamentary leaders of all parties, to discuss this question. The problem is, as chairwoman Verbeet stated, that determining sensitivity is a task for parliament, and not for government. Parliament is perfectly able to discuss these issues itself.

D66 leader Pechtold added that a demissionary government trying to direct affairs is unusual. SP and VVD had rejected Balkenende’s invitation earlier. This shows that the opposition, now including the PvdA, forms a united front against the CDA — for now. Only the CU still supports the prime minister.

Such constitutional sniping is not unusual, and it might even conceivably lead to results, since none of these complicated rules are written down anywhere and a determined action by a leading politician could lead to re-interpretation. Maybe that’s what Balkenende hoped to achieve.

Still, it seems that Balkenende has again chosen his battlefield wrongly. He has suffered loss of face — again. Minor loss of face, certainly, and it’s not really important in the larger scheme of things, but it continues a downward trend. Breaking this trend is Balkenende’s prime objective right now, and he has failed for now.

Expect this minor sniping to continue.

Sources: Trouw | Volkskrant | NRC.

<— Article: The rules of the game | Party profile — PvdA —>

This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.

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Comments (closed)

1 Posted by Ning on 25 February 2010 | Permalink

Thank you for your primer and articles - I hope you'd continue to publish the whole series. I would probably be the 13th non-Dutch-speaking person interested in following up on politics in the Netherlands, and I find your site extremely useful for this very purpose.

2 Posted by Bryan on 25 February 2010 | Permalink

Good news is hard to find anywhere in the current global economy, so managing bad news is the order of the day.

I doubt any advancements of CDA policy on a "sensitive" issue would help the CDA at the ballot box, so limitations on Cabinet action gives Balkenende an excuse for doing little but politic for the next 3 months.

Unless a stronger/better leader emerges from the pack of other political parties Balkenende remains the known and predictable quantity. "No flash" but no embarrassment.

As an American (Republican) I have liked Balkenende as PM. Always underestimated but after 8 years still has a chance for V Cabinet, something not possible in America with the 2 term constitutional amendment limitation for Presidents.