Saturday, April 28, 2007

Keeping it together

* Willem Alexander & Maxima *
Originally uploaded by am5terdam.
We are two days from the biggest celebration of the Netherlands, Queen's Day. All newspapers in the country strive for finding a new twist for covering the monarchy. One of the magazines wrote extensively on the costs of the royal family indicating that they cost the taxpayers over 95 million on an annual basis. Based on a poll they conducted most people would want to royal family to start paying taxes but an overwhelming majority still supports the monarchy.

i checked the issue with a friend of mine on Thursday afternoon. He is one of those wonderful Dutch people who both get paid and spend free time on citizen participation and democratic development. He was very clearly in favour of the monarchy. He used one of the most common arguments: the monarchy has played a big role in keeping the country together acting as a balancing force. "I don't know where we would be without them taking into consideration the turmoil of the last years", he estimated.

There was an interesting article yesterday in the main intellectual newspaper NRC Handelsblad on the way the monarchy builds their networks. They wrote about the dinners Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima host on a nearly weekly basis. Based on the article more than 100 key players of the Dutch society from politics, academia, culture and business have dined at their home in small informal gatherings. The article compared Willem-Alexander's networking to the work of his mother and concluded that Willem-Alexander is both building a network of people of his own generation and with Princess Maxima they do this in a very subtle and approachable manner.

The family Oranje is strongly involved in the society. They chair a number of foundations, give their support for societal projects and use silent power. The NRC guessed that Queen Beatrix would be stepping down next year and make room for Willem-Alexander. I am curious to see what that would mean for the visibility and popularity of the monarchy. As the NRC wrote, Willem-Alexander and Maxima started their networking from young politicians - the people who can decide on the future of the monarchy. They have a basis well built: especially Princess Maxima but also Prince Willem-Alexander have star-rocketing popularity rates and a clean but interesting public image.

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