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Pieter Van Buskirk
Pieter Van Buskirk
Name Pieter Van Buskirk
Full name Pieter Van Buskirk
Sex Male
Born Flag of Brunant Carrington, Brunant
27 March 1965
Partner Carina Nordin
Home Koningstad
Functions Politician
Languages Dutch, English, German
Religious stance Catholic
Political party Social Democrats

Pieter Van Buskirk (27 March 1965 in Carrington) is a Brunanter politician and current Prime Minister. Born in Carrington, he has spent years representing municipal and government politics, for over thirty years as a member of the Social Democrats.

After earning a licentiate in economics from the Royal University of Koningstad in 1987, he began working in the municipal government of Carrington before graduating with a masters in economics and international trade in 1991. He continued work with the Carrington government, eventually becoming a councillor in the 1993 municipal election, representing the Social Democratic Party.

After the fall of the second Willemont government in 1994, Van Buskirk ran for congress for the SDP, and was elected as one of the younger representatives. He was re-elected in 1998 and 2002, and from 2001 to 2005 served as External Affairs Minister.

Elected for a fifth term in 2009, he was again appointed to the post of External Affairs as part of the Helms government, holding the position until 2012. He then declined appointment a ministerial portfolio in 2013, instead devoting his freer time to set up a charity underprivileged children and youth of Mariana.

In 2016 he was elected party leader. He led the party into the 2017 general election, where they finished first, but with a seven-seat loss. A protracted government formation ended in early 2018.

Early life and educationEdit

Pieter Van Buskirk was born in Carrington to Martin Van Buskirk (1917-1985) and Eleonore Grantham (1926-2007). His father Pieter was an admirer of the Russian Revolution and was part of an armed socialist group during the Crisis of 1933, eventually going to jail in 1934. His mother came from a very traditional Catholic family. One of his ancestors, Rudolf Boskerck the Elder, was a Rotterdam-born merchant who fought against the Venetians in 1427.

The youngest of four children, he had three sisters; due to their births in a changing period his older sister married young and had a large family, while his next siblings (as did he) took their time and were able to study and have careers.[1]

As a youth, he struggled to cope with his parents' distinct and often opposing views, helping to form his more moderate views later on. He did his primary education at Carrington South School (now Herbert Hosen Primary School) and his secondary studies at Halsey College, where he would graduate in 1983. During his college years, he actively participated in anti-nuclear weapons protests, and against the proposed stationing of NATO fighter jets in Brunant in the period. In 1983 he was slated to complete six months' conscription in the Royal Guard, but was able to avoid doing so due to studies.[2]

Upon graduating, he began attending the Royal University of Koningstad to study economics. Though he studied full-time, he obtained a job as a mechanic's apprentice in Koningstad, learning to fix vehicles. He obtained his grade title (now called a licentiate)[3] in 1987, and after two years of working with the Carrington government, he enrolled at the Grijzestad University, completing a licentiate (a masters)[4] in economics and trade in 1991, taking a heavier schedule in order to finish one year ahead.

Carrington governmentEdit

From 1987 to 1989, Van Buskirk worked with the Carrington government, initially with municipal transport office. After furthering his studies from 1989-91, he returned to his old position before being promoted to a manager in the municipal health and welfare office.

In 1993, Van Buskirk announced his intent to run for municipal government and was placed on the party list for the 8 May election. He entered government as one of four SDP councillors, in the CDU-dominated government of Eric Hewton. He was tasked to head governmental relations, overseeing the coordination of inter-departmental city and government affairs.

Within a year of his appointment to the post, he had become the key person involved in dealing with the government in Koningstad. It is believed he had interests in heading the party list (and running for the mayorship) in 1997.

Early congressional careerEdit

The fall of the Edward Willemont government in March 1994 precipitated a change in plans and Van Buskirk announced he would seek a seat in congress. Placed in the party list, he would be elected to congress on 10 July, joining the congressional SDP in opposition. The SDP at the time instituted the first "shadow" government, and Van Buskirk, due to his experience in Carrington, was named to the justice technical group.

The TechnocratsEdit

During his first term he would form a close cooperation with Ines Michels and Gerald Henley, who led a block of members opposing the older politicians who, having been unsuccessful in the 1989, 1993 and 1994 elections, still continued to hold much influence in the party.

In opposition, he worked with Michels, Henley and Willem van Donck to push for new leadership in the party and a more creative and ambitious election and governance strategy looking ahead to 1998. Dubbed "the technocrats" after the four leading players, who had experience with careers outside of elected government, they were able to attract many newer and younger representatives in opposition to the party leadership.

On 21 March 1997, Henley introduced a vote of no-confidence against SDP leader Willem De Rycke. De Rycke denounced the motion as akin to a "coup" and refused to recognize it, though when it became clear that the majority of the party would not support him he resigned. Michels would be elected leader in June. The new party leadership's rhetoric was much more direct and confrontational against the CDU-led Jorgeson government.

1998 electionEdit

Pieter Van Buskirk, 1998

Van Buskirk during the election campaign

Work was quickly began to prepare the Social Democrats for the 1998 election. The changes at the top, together with a more direct and clear direction for the present and future saw increasing poll results for the SDP. By late 1997, the SDP's fortunes were much improved from the early 1990s slump and it became likely they could end up heading government, if not finishing with the most seats. The election on 6 May confirmed what was predicted; the SDP finished in first place and would likely attain the premiership as well.[5]

After the 1998 election, he was involved in coalition talks with the Greens (GP) and Centre Democrats (CD), though Michels privately told him he would not get a portfolio just yet as she had many to placate. There were talks of a rift in the media, which could have derailed a government formation, but Van Buskirk stressed his commitment to his party and government. Years later he would state that he "felt slighted" after all the work he had done to secure her position and government.

Nonetheless, Van Buskirk was an important member of the government, and was named the inter-ministerial liaison for the Prime Minister, perhaps seeking to (temporarily) placate him.

External Affairs ministerEdit

Michels I governmentEdit

In May 2001, Prime Minister Michels undertook a reshuffle of government, in which Willem van Donck was removed from External Affairs and essentially switched positions with Van Buskirk. Political critics were expecting him to make it as a minister in the Michels government, but expected him both to be promoted sooner and not to the most important department. While Hewitt had supported Michels' premiership since the mid-1990s

One of the first issues he had to tackle as minister was Brunant's potential entry into the Eurozone. Together with Finance Minister van Donck, he helped lead but was ultimately unsuccessful in early attempts to potentially enter the Eurozone.

With the advent of the War on Terror led by the United States, the government began looking into assisting its broader goals. Van Buskirk participated in high-level talks with his American and British counterparts.

Within a year of his appointment, Van Burkirk was back campaigning for the 2002 election. The minister was widely expected to retain his position, as now the apparent star minister in government. The 2002 election was not as expected, with the SDP and the Greens losing seats, and necessitating the Socialist Left Party (SLP) for a "grand coalition".

Michels II governmentEdit

2004 saw Michels' government face its first real test, as the SLP was looking to propose Mariana withdrawing from the War in Afghanistan. Van Buskirk was instrumental in coordinating talks which kept SLP support for troop involvement in exchange for a formal declaration in which soldiers would not lead combat missions.

2005 proved much more difficult, as discussions for a new budget for the fiscal year were progressing very slowly.[6] Van Buskirk, as the senior minister, pressed all parties to work together to come to an agreement, working heavily with the Prime Minister and other party leaders. He, though, found it hard to work with SLP leader Andreas Augustsson (Health and Welfare Minister), who increasingly clashed with the other coalition leaders.

Eventually, a nine-day marathon session was organized in mid-March, co-chaired by Minister Van Buskirk, in which the four coalition parties' leadership agreed to a heavily reworked budget. A vote was organized on 22 March to approve the budget, but three SLP and six CD representatives rebelled and voted against the budget, essentially sinking the vote and the government.

While it was shown that Van Buskirk (along with Finance Minister Erica Jansen) worked heavily to secure the future of the government, the Prime Minister became increasingly frustrated with her "difficult" coalition and partners and grew disinterested.

Opposition yearsEdit

Calls for Michels to resign were growing following the failed budget, but blaming her coalition partners and less focus on her inability to achieve cohesion as leader in her last years. Van Buskirk began to slowly gravitate away from her, after, privately feeling let down by her apparent lack of leadership.

Helms governmentEdit

The 2009 election produced a positive turnaround for the left in general. With 25 seats, the SDP finished first, in no small part due to Van Buskirk's efforts. He eventually opted to remain in congress, helping to orchestrate the "natural" coalition of SDP-GP-CD. When the CD's Robert Helms was chosen as the compromise candidate for Prime Minister, he reciprocated and Van Buskirk returned to External Affairs.

Social Democrat presidentEdit

SDP leadership raceEdit

The resignation of SDP leader Gert Henneman in 2016 opened up the party presidency, and almost immediately Michels and Henley announced their bids alongside new representative Henry Sherman and Koningstad mayor Karen House. Van Buskirk mulled running and placed his candidacy on 14 July. Experts now predicted his entry would erode Henley's chances, as he was the closest politically. He received 101 endorsements prior to the first round vote, second only to Michels' 112.

After the organized leadership debate, Van Buskirk was considered to be the strongest, alongside Henley. Sherman was deemed to be too inexperienced, House was seen as too radical to be able to effectively lead the party, and Michels' record as prime minister (particular 2004-05) was called into question, even by her own formerly close allies. One of the most heated topics was the European Union, and whether Brunant should leave it. House was the only candidate who advocated for an exit, though surprisingly Van Buskirk suggested reform would be needed to maintain Brunant a happy member.

16 July was the date of the first round. With 1598 of the 4896 total votes cast (32.6%), Van Buskirk finished first ahead of Karen House, though necessitating a second round. Campaigning was intense, where he ran a close campaign against the firebrand Koningstad mayor. The other candidates backed him in his final run, with Michels likely doing so more out of necessity rather than wholehearted support.

In the second round, Van Buskirk managed 2898 votes out of 4872 cast (59.5%), besting House by nearly a 20-point margin. The vote generated some division, especially with House stating the party's senior members in congress may have conspired to stop her "successful" campaign chances. That said, there was no division in the party ranks, with the party ultimately uniting behind Van Buskirk's appointment.

The heated campaign did intensify the growing "feud" between him and Michels, with the former Prime Minister stating the candidates unfairly moved to criticize her record while Van Buskirk and Henley were both key players in it.

Personal lifeEdit

Van Buskirk and Carina Nordin

Van Buskirk and Nordin, 2017

Van Buskirk was married in 1988 to Marta Holson. He has stated <<[he] was young and very naive>>, thus ending up in divorce a year later. He married again in 2010 to then-23 year old radio presenter Carina Nordin (b. 1987); she is of Swedish origin and has until recently worked with popular radio station Lucas FM as a presenter and DJ.

The couple had their first child together in 2014, named Martin Van Buskirk. He and Nordin lived in Grijzestad prior to 2017 due to her work. Since becoming interim Prime Minister and heading government, they live in Koningstad. Nordin holds the distinction of the youngest spouse of a Prime Minister, aged 30 as of January 2018.

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. His sister Jeanette was a coordinator in his 2017 election campaign.
  2. After reforms to the conscription laws in 1952, people could be exempted from military duty for "exceptional" work or situations, in Van Buskirk's case entering tertiary education. Conscription was abolished in 1988.
  3. In 2004 Mariana acceded to the Bologna process, and starting in 2008 a 3-2-3 system with changed titles was implemented.
  4. In 2004 Mariana acceded to the Bologna process, and starting in 2008 a 3-2-3 system with changed titles was implemented.
  5. SDP leader Ines Michels would later be proposed and accepted as Prime Minister.
  6. The SLP was very adamant in the need for increased spending towards healthcare, education, social work and other projects, while the CD wanted more earmarked for public works and reductions to offset it elsewhere.