Dutch PM Says Government Will Resign

Dutch PM says government will resign
Associated Press

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – The Dutch prime minister said Thursday his government will resign after his coalition split over the citizenship case of a Somali-born lawmaker.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he will tender his resignation to Queen Beatrix on Friday, signaling the collapse of his 3-year-old government and likely early elections within several months, rather than next May as scheduled.

The political turmoil began last month when the immigration minister known for her hard-line policies threatened to revoke the passport of Somali-born lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, after the legislator admitted falsifying her name to escape an arranged marriage when she applied for asylum in 1992.

Hirsi Ali, 36, resigned her seat, but parliament ordered Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk to reconsider her decision. On Tuesday, Verdonk reversed it, having discovered a loophole: Under Somali law, Hirsi Ali's false name was technically legal because it was her grandfather's family name.

The governing coalition split Thursday as one party defected in a stinging rebuke of the immigration minister for her clumsy handling of the citizenship case.

Hirsi Ali's political downfall has exposed divisions among the Dutch about whether their strict immigration policies – now being imitated elsewhere in Europe – have gone too far or not far enough.

Hirsi Ali, whose name before leaving Somalia 14 years ago was Hirsi Magan, became an international figure after the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim fanatic over a film that criticized the treatment of women under Islam. Hirsi Ali wrote the script.

Van Gogh's murder led to an anti-immigrant backlash, including the burning of mosques and a crackdown on radical Muslims. Hirsi Ali went into hiding for months, and still lives under 24-hour police protection, now in the United States.

Verdonk faced criticism after Hirsi Ali signed a statement acknowledging that she had “misled” Verdonk by saying she had lied about her name.

“To ask someone to sign a statement like that, just to save your own face… it's not worthy of a minister,” said Wouter Bos, leader of the opposition Labor party.

Hirsi Ali, meanwhile, has accepted a job in Washington with the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank.