Purple-plus becomes “necessary”

Well, it seems VVD leader Rutte is no longer rejecting the Purple-Plus VVD+PvdA+D66+GL coalition. Commentators expect the next few days of Tjeenk Willink’s informership to be spent on exploring this possibility further.

Earlier this week Rutte didn’t budge yet. During a parliamentary debate on the first, failed round of information, Rutte reiterated his invitation to Wilders for forming a right-wing government. Rutte proposed that he and Wilders would start negotiating, and that the CDA would be involved later on.

Wilders refused. He retained his standpoint that he wanted the CDA to be involved in the negotiations immediately, something that CDA leader Verhagen still refuses to do.

Although this is a repeat performance of what happened during the first days of the formation, I cannot escape the feeling that Rutte has effectively put Wilders in a nasty spot. We’re weeks further now, some people are starting to get impatient, and still Wilders refuses the only coalition offer he’s likely to get. Sure, Verhagen doesn’t budge either, but Rutte asked Wilders, and not Verhagen.

So maybe, just maybe, this episode has given enough ammunition to the VVD (and possibly the CDA) to accuse Wilders of unwillingness to enter coalition negotiations. We’ll see. The accusation will certainly not be aired before there’s a new government, but what happens later is anyone’s guess.

In any case, today Rutte said that the only reason he might reject Purple-plus is when the other parties refuse to even discuss the VVD’s conditions. Cohen (PvdA), Pechtold (D66), and Halsema (GL) fell over each other in their hurry to assure Rutte that they had no “taboos” and were open to discussing absolutely anything.
(Source: Volkskrant)

So that’s it, I guess. Purple-plus it will be. The CDA has been silently removed from the process, and that’s an excellent notion. It was Verhagen, after all, who allowed Wilders to win the first round of information by refusing to negotiate, leaving Wilders to smell like roses and count his blessings. Rutte’s new invitation may harm Wilders, but it’s too soon to tell.

Not that we’ll have a new government next week. Serious, complicated negotiations will start, and Rutte is in a similar position to VVD leader Bolkestein back in 1994. Rutte will have to reassure his voters that he won’t squander VVD talking points to the three left-wing parties he’s going to talk to, which will probably mean that the eventual goverment programme will be heavily VVD-influenced.

Rutte is in the weakest position here: if things go wrong both CDA and PVV will suck votes from him like mad. Conversely, the three left-wing parties are relatively safe. Disappointed left-wing voters will only have the SP to go to, and to some of them that’s not an option.

Thus, since Rutte’s position is weaker than that of the other Purple-plus leaders, his demands will be the strongest. The other parties will understand that Rutte has to placate his voters, and will grant him quite a few of his wishes. The same happened in 1994 during the original Purple negotiations.

But now that he’s honestly tried to form a right-wing coalition not once but twice, only to be rejected by PVV and CDA, he can claim that his responsibility for the national good leaves him no choice but to open Purple-plus negotiations. This is the real reason the initial phase of the formation has taken so long.

Despite all this good news, the Purple-plus coalition will make sure that the fundamental VVD and PvdA problems will continue to exist. The PvdA will again be forced rightward economically; the VVD leftward with respect to immigration. Thus the long-term prospects of both SP and PVV continue to look rosy.

Incidentally, a few days ago PvdA leader Cohen rejected SP leader Roemer’s demand to also be included in the negotiations. Cohen cited the SP’s loss in the elections, and pointed out that a PvdA+CDA+SP+GL coalition would contain three losers and only one winner (GL), apart from having only 76 seats.
(Source: Volkskrant)

I’m not sure this was a wise decision. On the other side of the political spectrum Rutte has treated Wilders far more circumspectly, and has made Wilders at least partly responsible for his failure to enter government. Cohen might have been better off if he’d done something similar to the SP — maybe leaving the rejection of the proposed coalition to CDA leader Verhagen or something.

Anyway, Purple-plus it will be. The negotiations will be long and arduous, and there will be little news, except for the announcements that the negotiations are entering the serious “engagement” phase, and that a new coalition has been formed.

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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.

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