Step 1: right-wing

Well, it seems there will be negotiations for a right-wing coalition. As regular readers know I applaud this: let Wilders show how much (or little) interested in governing he is.

All party leaders visited the Queen and gave her advice on how to proceed. This is mostly a formality, although occasionally a party leader lets slip a clue as to his true intentions (either deliberately or by accident). No such thing this time: the advices were what one would expect.

In general it’s custom that the largest party (the VVD) takes the initiative, while the parties that have won in the elections are invited to talks first. In this case that amounts to the VVD talking to the PVV.

In fact, Wilders explicitly said that this was the proper way to proceed — and he’s right for a change. (However, officially one is not supposed to talk about the advice one gives to the Queen, so he made a minor faux pas here. On the other hand, his advice is bloody obvious.)
(Source: NRC | Trouw)

Uri Rosenthal, VVD leader in the Senate, has been appointed informer, and he has started negotiating with the PVV.
(Source: Telegraaf)

Still, although this is an obvious first move VVD party leader Rutte remains careful. He has made it known he’s worried about the internal stability of the potential coalition partners. He pointed out that PVV MP Brinkman recently went against the party line by openly calling for more internal democracy within the PVV. (He also called upon people to vote for him specifically if they agreed with him; unfortunately I haven’t yet seen any reports of preferential votes, so it’s unclear how much of the PVV electorate agrees with him.)

In any case, Rutte has chosen to see this episode as a hint of instability within the PVV, and has asked Wilders for clarification. Clever. Keep the enemy busy.

However, the CDA is also demurring. Several high-ranking CDA members have publicly rejected a coalition with the PVV. Besides, new parliamentary leader Verhagen has said that the CDA, after its historic defeat in the elections, should not be too eager to play a leading role.
(Source: NRC | Trouw)

This is understandable. One of the biggest surprises of the elections was that there turns out to be a voter conduit between CDA and PVV, which nobody had predicted. Thus CDA and PVV have become electoral competitors, and it would be good for the CDA to stay in opposition while the PVV sits in government: disappointed voters may find their way back to the christian-democrats.

As far as I’m concerned this is not good for the country as a whole: right now is the time to prove that Wilders is not truly interested in governing (although he has to pretend he is), and the CDA is required for that mechanism.

So right now VVD and PVV are more-or-less forced to talk to each other and smile, while the CDA can keep in the shadows and decide later.

Informer Rosenthal warned that these talks are supposed to lead to a true government, and not be just a round of talks that anyone can pull out of. I choose to interpret this as a veiled warning to the PVV: get into government or shut up.

Also, his official job description does not state a VVD+PVV coalition is required, so Rosenthal can switch to Purple-green negotiations if the situation warrants it. Still, I hope he won’t do that too soon. Wilders has won convincingly, now let him take responsibility or suffer the consequences.

Right now Rosenthal is talking to the leaders: first Rutte, then Wilders. I assume Verhagen will come next, so that Rosenthal can judge whether the CDA will make good on its threats and stay out of a right-wing coalition. It would not be good if the failure of right-wing negotiations can be put down to the CDA demurring instead of Wilders.

We’ll see. The first steps are not especially surprising, and we now need a week or so to figure out what’s going to happen next. I do expect the VVD to maintain its pressure on the PVV.

<— Small fry, 10 June | Whose fault will it be? —>

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 Bryan on 14 June 2010 | Permalink

PVV was (at least for me the surprise) election winner.

I always thought PVV and CDA were pulling from mostly the same demographic groups. It was my hope that Balkenende would become the voice of reason on the immigration issue between Cohen and Wilders and that CDA would lose seats but still hold on, as the largest party.

Unfortunately, Cohen never came up with any "innovations" to improve the intergration issues, so without new ideas or an effective campaign message on this issue, PvdA voters could not "hope" for the implementation of better solutions and potential PVV voters could not "fear" Cohen's proposed solutions, which might drive voters to vote for CDA and the status quo.

As a result, it appears many voters don't want the status quo, so attempting to install a right wing coalition appears to be the right response. The next three weeks or however long it takes to play out the PVV negotiations should be very interesting.

How has Rutte and Wilders gotten along with each other in the past? If it hasn't been good, I doubt Rutte will risk VVD's first chance to lead a coalition with Wilders, even if PVV had won 30 seats.

2 Posted by Bryan on 14 June 2010 | Permalink

Other post-election coalition possibilities:

Right-Christian-Green (VVD+CDA +D66+GL+CU = 77 seats). This works if D66 and GL really want Wilders in opposition and are willing to stay on board with the economic policies of VVD and CDA. By making it clear, the junior partners had no role in the economic policy this might be a tolerable coalition for GL and CU.

If that doesn't work, I suppose there is also Amsterdam-Protestant (VVD+PvdA+GL+CU = 76 seats). However, this appears less likely, since PvdA will certainly have a tougher time basically capitulating on economic matters. It is certainly more defensible for a junior coalition partner to accept less than favorable terms, but for a major partner to abandon the quintessential principles of existing seems very unlikely.

3 Posted by Joost Diepenmaat on 15 June 2010 | Permalink

http://www.nu.nl/politiek/2269806/verhagen-legt-bal-bij-vvd-en-pvv.html

Verhagen (CDA) is keeping quiet for now: first, the PVV and VVD will have to sort out if they *really* want to work together, and then the CDA will see.

Obviously the smartest move for him to make right now; they don't really want to form a coalition with PVV, and they also don't want to alienate the PVV voters any further (since they want the "defectors" back), so the best chance for the CDA is to hope for negotiations between VVD and PVV to blow up before the CDA gets involved.

4 Posted by CTerry on 15 June 2010 | Permalink

Bryan, with regards, I don't really think any of those coalitions you suggest is workable. The first... a five-party coalition where the CU and D66 work together? Yeah, that's never gonna be stable. In fact I note that the poll overview page on this site doesn't even allow for such a coalition. Amsterdam-Protestant is even less workable. If the VVD and PvdA are working together I can only see that functioning with D66 behind them (D66 was the glue that held the first purple coalition together of course). GL is too tied to the left and the CU have pretty much opposite views on everything, plus the coalition would be overwhelmingly liberal, which, combined with the lack of the CDA would not be good for the CU's electoral prospects. Like the VVD-PVV-CDA option it also suffers from the problem of only a 1 seat majority, far too small a base for effective government.

Honestly, from where I'm sitting the only viable government is Purple-Green. If any other coalition forms I will purchase a hat simply with the goal of eating it.

5 Posted by CTerry on 15 June 2010 | Permalink

Bryan, with regards, I don't really think any of those coalitions you suggest is workable. The first... a five-party coalition where the CU and D66 work together? Yeah, that's never gonna be stable. In fact I note that the poll overview page on this site doesn't even allow for such a coalition. Amsterdam-Protestant is even less workable. If the VVD and PvdA are working together I can only see that functioning with D66 behind them (D66 was the glue that held the first purple coalition together of course). GL is too tied to the left and the CU have pretty much opposite views on everything, plus the coalition would be overwhelmingly liberal, which, combined with the lack of the CDA would not be good for the CU's electoral prospects. Like the VVD-PVV-CDA option it also suffers from the problem of only a 1 seat majority, far too small a base for effective government.

Honestly, from where I'm sitting the only viable government is Purple-Green. If any other coalition forms I will purchase a hat simply with the goal of eating it.

6 Posted by bryan on 16 June 2010 | Permalink

@ CTerry Agreed: Wilders not enough to bring CU and D66 together in the same coalition.

However, Rutte and Wilders had a good talk today, so is there a point where they skip talks with CDA and consider:

Right-Red-Reformed (VVD+PVV+SP+CU+SGP) 31=24=15=5=2=77

PPK memtions Roemer has worked with the VVD before at the local level and SGP offered to join VVD+PVV+CDA even though no one asked for their help.

That leaves Rutte to convince CU, not an easy task, but he can promise the education ministry to CU and tell them it will go to D66 if they don't join

7 Posted by CTerry on 16 June 2010 | Permalink

I'm not even sure where to start with picking that coalition apart...

Firstly the SP and the CU have both ruled out working with Wilders, full stop. If you think that working with the PvdA will be difficult for the VVD (which it will) working with the SP will be impossible. Yes, the SP and the VVD have cooperated at the local level, but local politics is much more technocratic and coalitions which would be impossible at national level form frequently. The PvdA is willing to compromise on economics, and already has things like the rise in the pension age in its manifesto. The SP really isn't. I can see a day when the SP joins the cabinet, but only with the PvdA on board. VVD-SP cooperation is not going to happen. Once again I find it difficult to imagine the CU working with the VVD. With their socially conservative, pro-immigration, environmentalist, and economically leftist positions the CU is pretty much the opposite of the VVD. I also can't see it in government without the CDA. Nor can I see the SGP in government without the CDA either, and while they've offered to join the right-wing, I suspect their price will be too big. The SGP does not seek power, it is too ideological.

8 Posted by Bryan on 16 June 2010 | Permalink

O.K. but if "Triple R" ever becomes reality, you heard it here first.

Besides if SP is ever going to get into government, it is going to be unconventional.

As for more realistic options, I guess we just wait for Step 1- -the Right-Option and then see if Rutte needs to go to
Step 2--Purple-Green (which PvdA, D66 and GL are probably already working on) or
Step 2A--Amsterdam-Protestant (a far better choice for VVD, since CU is more centre, resulting in a coalition from right to left of VVD+CU+PvdA+GL)

9 Posted by CTerry on 16 June 2010 | Permalink

On economics policy I would actually say that the ChristianUnion was to the left of D66. Though if any Dutch people want to disagree with me, I feel free to be corrected, but my feeling had always been that D66's economics are about the same as the CDAs, whereas CU's are clearly to the left of D66's.

10 Posted by CTerry on 16 June 2010 | Permalink

I should also note that D66 is a very post-materialist party. Political reform is its raison d'etre and if the other coalition partners will agree to things like further provision for referenda, a directly elected PM (also VVD policy I believe), a referendum on AMS, and other similar D66 demands, in exchange for acquisance on the VVD's economics package they can probably be made a bit more acquiescent. Similarly GL can probably be palmed off with some solid environmental legislation and making sure that the Dutch armed forces bare their fair share of the next round of cuts. That really just leaves the fight on the budget to the VVD and PvdA. The SP is guaranteed to be far less movable than the PvdA, even with less seats, the CU is likely to side with the PvdA a lot of the time. Rutte is far better off with D66 and GL than with any other combination of parties.

11 Posted by Bryan on 16 June 2010 | Permalink

I also defer to Dutch contributors on all coalition matters.

And yes, CU is somewhat left of D66 on economic matters in general.

But, the advantage for Rutte with bringing in CU and Amsterdam-Protestant is that:

1. CU is not D66
2. It does not restore "Purple" and the legend and glory of D66 and Purple
3. CU is not a left party when it comes to social issues
4. CU has 5 less seats and will truly be a reliable junior-junior partner, that will not crash Rutte's Cabinet if he can convince PvdA and GL of budget cuts

Under Amsterdam-Protestant it beoomes 31 seats right, 5 seats center and only 40 instead of 50 seats left.

12 Posted by Bryan on 16 June 2010 | Permalink

Ah--- there will be no "palming off" of GL. Using Femke's own words she would rather "knee you in the groin"( what she would have done to Balkenende after one of the debates) than make a sensible argument or comment.

GL is truly an unknown quantity having never been part of a Cabinet when it comes to national governance, so Rutte will probably have his hands full negotiating any deal with GL.

What might be helpful with Amsterdam-Protestant is that you get to sell the concept of a brand new coalition partnership, no a "historic" partnership where VVD and GL (and not D66, GL's closest rival) get to implement election reform, better budgets and "better" everything.

Ah, the dreams one can have as we wait for the CDA to convene a congress of membership to decide whether to govern. Yes govern your country!! Balkenende, please come back to make one final decision for CDA and tell them the purpose behind the CDA is to govern. Forget about the next election CDA, help your country now!