In my continuing series on Dutch politics I present the next background page: The Rules of the Game, in which I discuss government, parliament, elections, and coalitions.
Meanwhile it's mostly quiet on the political front. Right now party leaders are talking about who's going to talk to whom, and this negotiation phase can continue for weeks.
The only raw action came from right-wing VVD last week. It turned out that Rita Verdonk, right-wing minister of Immigration and Integration, who was narrowly defeated by centrist Mark Rutte in the internal VVD leadership elections, had gained more preferential votes than Rutte himself; a very rare occurrence in Dutch politics. (See the new Rules of the Game page for more on preferential votes.)
Strengthened by this, Verdonk attempted an internal party coup against Rutte, but the attempt was badly thought out and badly executed. Verdonk wanted to "discuss Rutte's leadership", but Rutte refused to be drawn in, and other party members, who put unity first, refused to support Verdonk. In the end she became the laughing stock of politically interested Holland, and her chances to return as government minister are now less than zero, even if the VVD would participate in the next government (which it likely won't).
Nonetheless, this coup shows that the leadership question in the VVD has not yet been solved. Would a more strictly right-wing course benefit the VVD more than a centrist one? Verdonk seems to think so (and I tend to agree), but she's badly overplayed her hand, and Rutte is likely safe for a while.
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