MP’s Pass No Confidence Motion Against Verdonk (The Netherlands)

MPs pass no confidence motion against Verdonk (The Netherlands)

13 December 2006 (second update)

AMSTERDAM The Cabinet will discuss on Wednesday the motion of no confidence passed against Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk in the Dutch Parliament overnight.

It is not yet clear whether the Liberal VVD minister will resign, but the opposition Labour PvdA and Democrat D66 parties expect her to step down.

If that happens, all VVD ministers are expected to resign, such as earlier threatened by party leader Mark Rutte.

But after Tuesday night's debate, Rutte was tightlipped and said he would wait for the cabinet's reaction. However, he said a unique constitutional situation had been created which was “exceptionally difficult”.

It is possible that the cabinet which has been in caretaker mode since the November elections simply throws in the towel, a situation which has never occurred before.

In times past, however, the ministers Ernst Hirsch Ballin (Christian Democrat CDA) and Ed van Thijn (PvdA) have resigned from a caretaker cabinet.

Earlier on Tuesday night, the left-wing opposition parties clashed heavily with Verdonk because she refused to extend a temporary suspension on the deportations of long-term asylum seekers.

The PvdA had requested the extension in a motion during Tuesday night's emergency parliamentary debate.

That proposal was complimentary to a motion passed at the end of November calling for a general amnesty for asylum seekers who had lodged a request for asylum before April 2001 and were still living in the Netherlands.

Initially, the left-wing opposition parties which have held a small majority since the elections reacted mildly to Verdonk's refusal.

The PvdA, Socialist SP, green-left GroenLinks, the D66, ChristenUnie and the animal rights party PvdD said Verdonk had to first discuss the motion with the cabinet. That is constitutionally normal.

But the debate flared when Verdonk said she would re-start the deportations immediately after the debate. She also said the expulsions would resume even if the PvdA motion was passed by a parliamentary vote.

She believes that she must maintain immigration laws and was backed up by the CDA, VVD, far-right Freedom Party PVV and the Christian SGP.

The parliament decided to hold the vote straight away and then ask for a reaction from the cabinet.

When CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said shortly after midnight that the cabinet would not carry out the motion, the PvdA lodged a motion of no confidence against Verdonk. That motion was backed by the left-wing majority.

The support of the small ChristenUnie was crucial in the vote. MP Tineke Huizinga said it was unacceptable that Verdonk did not even want to suspend the deportations for 24 hours.

The ChristenUnie had supported three motions of no confidence against Verdonk in the past year, but all of those motions were defeated.

Meanwhile, it remains uncertain whether the expulsions will resume on Wednesday. In normal circumstances, an average of five asylum seekers from the target group is deported each week.

Defence Minister Henk Kamp and Overseas Development Minister Agnes van Ardenne ended prematurely a visit to Afghanistan and will return to The Hague on Wednesday to attend the crisis cabinet meeting.

The two government ministers had planned to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and the governor of the province Uruzgan, Abdul Hakim Munib. The visit will now be continued by other Dutch officials, including the Dutch ambassador in Kabul.