The negotiations for a right-wing VVD+PVV+CDA government have hardly gone on for a few days, and the participants are already positioning themselves to blame someone else if they fail. Right now Wilders is in a better position in the blame game, and that could be dangerous.
Granted, the situation is complicated. Largest party VVD has been forced to talk to biggest winner PVV first, and Wilders has to pretend to be happy with that, while deep in his heart he’d prefer to stay in the opposition. The two parties will definitely need the CDA, but newly-minted leader Verhagen is keeping a low profile, citing the disastrous election result as a reason to stay “humble.” (The CDA claiming humility is like a tiger claiming a vegetarian diet. Possible, but not very likely.)
Besides, according to the other parties both PVV and CDA could be instable, and that would be a serious problem with a 76-seat majority. Every vote counts, literally. The fact that the SGP has offered to support the government helps a little — two votes’ worth, to be exact.
I do not believe in this purported instability. Both PVV and CDA are far more stable than is suggested.
On the PVV side, the single thing that happened was Hero Brinkman’s call for more internal democracy, and the general possibility that there will be undisciplined people among the 15 new PVV MPs. That’s possible, I suppose, but it ignores the fact that Wilders has been very strict on party discipline, and that the Brinkman incident is the single example of dissent in the PVV ranks in the past three years. Wilders started picking new candidates a year ago, and I’m morally certain that he’s made sure the newcomers all accept his leadership. Besides, without Wilders at the top of the party list none of those newcomers would have been elected.
On the CDA side, the large number of party prominents that reject a coalition with the PVV is quoted as evidence for instability. While it’s certainly true that part of the CDA doesn’t like the PVV for beans and would prefer a different coalition, when it comes to staying in power the CDA has always been extremely disciplined. Besides, none of the critics actually sit in parliament. And if the party leadership decides that a PVV coalition is good for the country (and the party), everybody will comply and toe the party line.
Still, claiming instability in another party allows one to shift the blame for failed negotiations to that party. The PVV will certainly want to blame the CDA, while the VVD will certainly want to blame any or both of the other two. So the three parties have a definite incentive to accuse the others of instability. In that light it’s curious that nobody has called the VVD instable yet.
In any case, today Rutte and Wilders, chaired by informer Rosenthal (VVD), are supposed to talk coalition. Wilders, however, wants Verhagen to also sit in on that conversation, because a coalition without the CDA is impossible. Wilders also offered to talk directly to Verhagen, without either Rosenthal or Rutte. Yesterday, however, Verhagen said that PVV and VVD should talk to each other first and bridge the gap between their party programmes.
(Source: Volkskrant | Telegraaf)
Verhagen clearly tries to wriggle out from having to state anything. It would be far better for him if PVV and VVD decide they have too little common ground to form a coalition. On the other hand, it would be far better for Wilders if he can blame the CDA for not wanting to talk to potential coalition partners — the most serious sin in the Dutch political system.
What the VVD wants is not entirely clear. But Rutte is once again saved by circumstances: if PVV and CDA fight against each other, the VVD can stand in the middle looking disappointed at the impossibility to rule with coalition partners like these — and switch to Purple-green.
Still, the point of this round of negotiations is to prove that Wilders doesn’t want to sit in government. Both VVD and CDA stand to win from proving that, so I hope they’re cooperating behind the scenes. It would be very bad for the CDA if it takes the blame for the failed negotiations: a voter conduit between PVV and CDA has opened during the elections, and they now compete for the conservative-nationalist voters. The very fact they’re competing shows that these voters distrust the CDA, and taking the blame for the failure would only increase that distrust.
But right now Wilders has the advantage. In the popular eye it’s the CDA that’s demurring and endangering a right-wing coalition, while Wilders is playing the moderate who wants to talk to everyone. That’s not the way to prove Wilders is unfit for government.
If the negotiations continue on this track, the CDA might lose them as badly as they lost the elections.
Still, that assumes the CDA is stupid, and it’s not. Therefore I believe that later this week the CDA will join the negotiations after all, hoping to shift the blame of failure to Wilders once more. Any other outcome would be very bad for the country (and the CDA).
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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.