All entries for Wednesday 29 November 2006

November 29, 2006

Unreported Holland, Part III

Follow-up to Unreported Holland, Part II from [TBA]

Now, before I do some work, let me bring you the last bit of disturbing news coming from the Netherlands. Trust me, it’s a big one. Well, at least in the Netherlands people believe so.

Two reporters held hostage by justice department

Basically, the two men reported about leaks within the AIVD – General National Security Service, the Dutch SIS – and that top secret documents were obtained by criminal organisations. At the moment, there’s a case against an former AIVD employee, accused of leaking such documents, and the reporters have been asked to reveal their source.

In general, in the EU, reporters are allowed to keep their sources secret, but may be asked to reveal them in court cases. This all depends on the judge’s discretion, and is the nasty shady area in anything legal. In this case, the source “could possibly” help the defendant, and no one wants to imprison an innocent man. But is this slight possibility of freedom more important than the journalists’ (and the source’s) rights and credibility?

Today, reports come from the former Dutch colony of Indonesia, where journalists are shocked of this turn of events. It wasn’t until recently that the Indonesian secret service had so much power that the local journalists were afraid to report anything but the weather. And now the Netherlands, beacon of democracy, are resorting to measures not dissimilar to those well known to the Indonesians.

Freedom, democracy, national security, credibility. Take your pick.

Unreported Holland, Part II

Follow-up to Unreported Holland, Part I from [TBA]

See, I thought the Dutch general elections would be newsworthy, but again, only one report in the Guardian, and it was about a Greenpeace activist disturbing the current PM’s final election speech. Great. Again, the BBC hardly did better shining a light on Dutch politics, mainly saying there would be tough coalition talks.

First of all, let me cheer you up and refer to my earlier posts: the little party I voted for, which was projected to lose four seats and end up with two, managed to lose only three seats so finish at three. Hurrah! The interesting bit comes next: the first three people on the party’s list were held by men. With only two seats projected there was bound to be someone with lots of favouring votes. And indeed, one member managed to obtain more than 30.000 personal votes, bringing her far above the personal quotum of about 16.300.

Basically, the quotum for a party to obtain a seat in parliament was about 65.000 this year. For a single person within a party to claim a seat, this quotum is 25% of that, so about 16.300. Most party members accumulating so many votes are already on a position on the list where they’ll end up in parliament, just because their party gains enough seats. In the case of this smaller party, only 3 seats were obtained, and the lucky lady who was originally placed 6th gained the 2nd number of seats in the party, winning her a seat in parliament.

The results

And here’s a little puzzle for you: how do you create a majority of 76 with the following election results?

CDA (Christian Democrats, right of center, conservative) 41 (-3)
PvdA (Social Democrats, left of center, mildly progressive) 33 (-9)
VVD (Liberal Democrats, right wing, mildly progressive) 22 (-6)
SP (Socialists, left wing, mildly progressive) 25 (+16)
Groen Links (Green Socialists, left wing, progressive) 7 (-1)
D66 (Democrats, left wing, extremely progressive) 3 (-3)
CU (Christian Union, left of center, mildly conservative) 6 (+3)
SGP (Reformed Party, right of center, extremely conservative) 2 (0)
PVV (Freedom Party, right wing, conservative) 9 (+9)
PvdD (Animal Rights, left wing, mildly progressive) 2 (+2)

I could probably make a nice table, but don’t have that much spare time. At the moment, most signs indicate a CDA-PvdA-SP (99) coalition, but no one can find a subject on which both CDA and SP agree… Another option might be CDA-PvdA-CU (80), but does that really reflect the public opinion?

Unreported Holland, Part I

Why is it when there’s a sparrow causing havoc in some entertainment show in Holland, I can read all about it on the BBC front page, and the story lingers for days, whereas when substantial attacks on democracy occur in the same country, I have to resort to the Dutch newspapers? Since no one else does, I thought I’d bring you Unreported Holland.

The first story to bring to your attention, has actually been mentioned briefly in the media, mainly because it concerns recent developments in the UK. The Guardian even managed to make it front page news (at least on their website). Supposedly, the Dutch were going to ban the burqa from the streets. Surprisingly, this article only lingered for a few hours.

To be fair, the article was stirring with insufficient information. The parliament had merely accepted a proposal that allowed looking into such a ban. The Guardian failed to mention that at the time, within a week general elections were to be held, and a left-wing majority opposing such ban was bound to be formed as a result. On top of that, the news did reappear once more, when The Economist outrightly denounced the mere thought of banning religious clothing, wondering where the Dutch justice department had not been reading allowing the green light for this process.

One further comment. The following letter was placed after the original article in the Guardian:

Naima Bouteldja is unhappy with Dutch law banning the veil because she believes Muslim women are being asked to submit not to the law of the land but to a dominant way of life. But the dominant way of life in any country is what that country’s laws do or should reflect. No sensible western woman would walk along the streets of a Saudi city wearing a miniskirt. Saying that she worships the beauty of the human body would not save her from condemnation there, and rightly so.

I wonder if the writer realizes that he has just put Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands on the same line. Most Dutch people – even these days – would consider their country tolerant, and would probably see that as the dominant way of life. A way of life, where we don’t tell people what they cannot do. Now let’s hope the predictions are true and this proposal ends up in the bin as soon as the new government is formed.

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