Housekeeping, coalitions, and CDA leadership

On Sunday 6 June I’ll leave for a holiday in Venice, from which I’ll return on Sunday 13 June. I will take my laptop and a brand-new dongle, so in theory I’ll have Internet access and will follow Dutch politics a bit. Before I leave I’ll give you an update on the likely coalition negotiations and the CDA leadership struggle.

I’m afraid you shouldn’t expect too many posts next week, which is a pity, but not disastrous. After all, the coalition negotiations will remain exciting for at least two or three weeks after the elections, and I’ll definitely comment on them.

While in Venice I’ll concentrate on the polls and the Wednesday night election results, and I’ll post those as soon as possible. I will probably ignore most other topics, as I have done for the past few days (apologies for that, but I was just too busy, and when my work stopped I found myself in the nicest weather we’re likely to get for the rest of the year, so I wasn’t too keen on writing a lot).

Coalition prediction

A quick coalition negotiation prediction that assumes the current polls predict the outcome relatively correctly:

  1. The VVD will become the largest party and can take the initiative. Balkenende resigns.
  2. Rutte will start with VVD+CDA+PVV, if numerically possible. His point is not necessarily getting this coalition (though it may come to that), but attacking CDA and PVV. Wilders will have to negotiate seriously (and make concessions on his anti-Islamic stuff) or be left out of government and appear unwilling to negotiate.
  3. Besides, the negotiations will force the CDA to take a quick decision on the leadership question, and that’s something the christian-democrats are very bad at. Thus these negotiations, whether they succeed or fail, will be bad for PVV and CDA.
  4. Next on the list is centre-right VVD+CDA+?+?. The CDA’s problems will continue, and this is fine by Rutte.
  5. GL is mightily interested; this is its best chance in its entire existence at coalition participation. So I expect Rutte to bag the GreenLefts relatively quickly.
  6. D66 will certainly be invited, but as I said before I’m not so sure the Democrats should accept. Remaining in opposition will give them good chances to pick up moderate right-wing voters in the next elections.
  7. D66 could be swapped for the CU, but this will not be Rutte’s first choice.
  8. If we don’t have a VVD+CDA+D66+GL or VVD+CDA+GL+CU government by now, Purple will come into play.
  9. D66 wants Purple, GL and the PvdA want anything that gets them into government, so I don’t expect problems there. But the VVD itself might not want this coalition.
  10. Still, the VVD might be forced into Purple if all other options fail. The liberals will retaliate by demanding a much more right-wing economic programme than in the centre-right variants: they have to show their voters that they don’t need to move to CDA or PVV come the next elections.
  11. If it’s Purple the PvdA is history: it cannot survive another Purple period where it executes the right-wing economic programme. That’s fine as far as the VVD and the other left-wing parties are concerned.

So that’s my prediction — barring huge shifts during the elections. Let’s see whether I’m right.

CDA leadership

Finally some old news about the CDA leadership struggle.

On Monday night foreign minister Verhagen visited health minister Klink. Verhagen, it is said, looked around nervously when he quickly entered the health ministry. What the two CDA ministers discussed is unknown, but observers quickly came to a theory that fits the slightly suspenseful setting.

The CDA is preparing for the post-Balkenende era. If, as seems exceedingly likely, the CDA finishes not first, not even second, but third next Wednesday, Balkenende is toast, and the CDA urgently needs a new leader. This, observers theorise, was the topic discussed by Verhagen, the highest-ranking catholic, and the rapidly rising star on the protestant side, Klink.

Well-informed CDA insiders say that the plan is that Klink becomes party leader and parliamentary leader, and that Verhagen will lead the formation negotiations and will become vice-prime minister.
(Source: Volkskrant)

A theory

If that is true it would be something new. Until now the CDA has had one party leader, who operated as prime minister from government. The parliamentary leader was distinctly second in rank, although he remained in the picture as a potential crown prince.

No more, apparently. If the CDA is willing to break with tradition in such a way, there must be a deep rift within the party, possibly fueled by a vicious infight between catholics and protestants.

It’s the catholics’ turn to nominate the party leader, but their candidate Verhagen was very efficiently tarred by PvdA leader Bos during the fall of government. Besides, the CDA has good cause to fear the pull of orthodox-protestant CU on protestant voters, and the most obvious defense is a protestant party leader.

On the whole I’d say that the alleged power share between Verhagen and Klink will be a temporary solution at best. The VVD tried something similar in 1986-1989, when they were the junior partner in the Lubbers II government, and failed spectacularly, caused the fall of government, disastrous elections, and Lubbers’s switch to the PvdA.

So I don’t think this scenario is one for the ages. Somewhere in the next two years or so there will be a short, sharp fight, and either contender or both could be pushed out of the boat and decide to leave politics.

No data

The problem is, this is only a theory. This analysis is perfectly sensible and logical as far as it goes, but it could be completely wrong. We just don’t know. CDA infights are notoriously difficult to follow, and although parts of the fights are usually very public, what happens behind the screens is totally unknown. And it’s in that secret process that the next party leader is appointed.

Lack of facts make these conspiratorial theories necessary, especially when it comes to the CDA. The other parties are not exactly examples of openness and transparency, but the CDA has made mussel-like closedness into a fine art.

<— Left-wing undecideds decide; 6-seat shift | Poll —>

This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.

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Comments (closed)

1 Posted by Jos on 6 June 2010 | Permalink

PVDA is probably very much aware they can not waive a white flag of surrender on the economic issues and are better off compromising on social issues coming with specifically a seemingly “tough, but fair” solution on the whole immigration issue. This helps Rutte defend himself when it comes to the PVV (who are decidedly to the left of VVD on economic issues). Rutte can compromise on the “woningmarkt” issues including the “hypotheek rente” (which he likely wants to do anyway) to get D66 to come on board. Raise the pension age to 67 and you have a whole package of economic reforms that all parties involved can claim helped beat the economic downturn come next election.

Suppose VVD will indeed not compromise on economic issues, does PVDA really doom itself to what might be at least eight years (the four years of this cabinet and the four years following it after SP takes over as the biggest leftwing party) without having a shot at providing the prime minister? They are better off going into opposition vs. the right wing coalition that is sure to follow (without Wilders; who has been pegged by Rutte as unwilling to govern) VVD + CDA + ? + ?.