Wouter Bos, the leader of the Dutch Social-Democrats, is angry with the press for publishing his concerns about the growing number of Muslim politicians within his party. Later generations will probably look upon 2006 as a watershed year in Dutch politics. The municipal elections on 7 March were won by Bos’s Labour Party, the Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA) and lost by the two governing parties of the center-right coalition in The Hague, the Christian-Democrat CDA and the Liberal VVD. As we reported earlier the balance was tipped by the Muslim vote.
Eighty percent of the growing immigrant electorate voted for the PvdA, while the remaining Muslims voted for smaller parties of the extreme left, with just 3% for the CDA and 1% for the VVD. This phenomenon prompted De Telegraaf, the largest paper in the country, to write that the immigrants have become a “power block.”
A case in point is the Amsterdam borough of Geuzenveld-Slotermeer. Here the PvdA won 54% of the votes and more than doubled its share of seats from 6 to 13. Of these 13 seats, however, 5 were won by Turkish and 2 by Moroccan candidates. This means that more than half the seats of the largest party were won by Muslims. The situation resembles that in the regional parliament of Brussels, the so-called “capital of Europe,” where the Parti Socialiste is the largest party. Over half its 26 seats are held by (14) Muslim immigrants (10 Moroccans, 2 Turks, 1 Tunisian and 1 West-African from Guinea).
The electoral strength of the Left in Western Europe is increasingly based on the immigrant vote, as the Left caters for voters who favour extensive redistribution of taxpayers’ money to so-called “underprivileged” groups such as immigrants.
The extent of the phenomenon, however, seems to have taken Wouter Bos by surprise. The Dutch electoral system works with lists of candidates. Once a party knows how many of its candidates are elected the seats go to the candidates on the list who attracted the most votes. Though some Muslim candidates were placed low in the list, on inconspicuous places where candidates usually have no hope of being elected, most of the Muslim candidates were elected anyhow, because the immigrant electorate voted almost exclusively along ethnic lines, casting their ballots always for candidates from their own circle and hardly ever for an indigenous Dutch candidate.
The PvdA leader is worried about the poor competence of many of the elected immigrants. He said last Friday that “our new immigrant councillors” are bound to cause trouble because their “political culture” is often incompatible with Dutch politics: “They conduct politics according to the culture of their home countries, where clientelism is the norm.” Bos’s words were widely reported by the Dutch media and caused anger among the newly elected PvdA councillors, some of whom hinted that Bos had made a racist remark.
The PvdA now blames the press. PvdA chairman Michiel van Hultsen said that the media are “polarising the debate” and that some have a “racist” agenda. He said that the media “lack respect for immigrants” and would not have devoted attention to Bos’s remark if he had not been talking about immigrants. Wouter Bos said: “I am dumbfounded at being placed on a [racist] side I thought I was fighting. I have made it perfectly clear that I am very happy with the large number of immigrant voters.”
Meanwhile in Sweden a member of the Socialist government has resigned over the affair of the Danish Muhammad cartoons. On Tuesday Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds stepped down, making her the fourth government minister to resign over the Danish cartoons. (An Italian minister resigned after wearing a T-shirt with the cartoons, which sparked riots in Libya that cost Libya’s interior minister his job. Riots over the cartoons also cost Lebanon’s interior minister his position.) Freivald’s position became untenable when it emerged that last month she had a Swedish website shut down
for running the cartoons. According to the Foreign Ministry the cartoons were “offensive” (see them here, halfway down the page) and the website was endangering the lives of Swedish citizens by antagonising Muslim extremists.