Last week the Amsterdam negotiations finally succeeded. The capital will be governed by a coalition of D66, VVD, and SP. The PvdA, which was part of the coalition from 1946 on, has been banished to the opposition, as was its loyal wing lieutenant GL. Also, the VVD has agreed to work with the SP, a combination that so far was ruled not impossible, but very, very unlikely.
In my last update I discussed the national importance of these negotiations, and how GL unexpectedly withdrew from the negotiations. Although a four-party coalition of D66, VVD, PvdA, and SP was proposed and there were some negotiations, in the end the PvdA also withdrew.
The Dutch press is assuming that PvdA and GL, the backbone of any Amsterdam coalition for years now, assumed that D66 and the VVD would not be able to strike a deal with the SP; and also that the SP would be unwilling to enter a coalition without any of the other left-wing parties — and note that nowadays D66 doesn’t count as such any more. This appears to be a miscalculation: the SP persevered and even managed to wrangle some concessions from the two liberal parties.
The coalition agreement offers plenty of liberal points (less social housing, parking fees not to rise too much, and especially an end to the system of permanent lease, where a house owner does not own the ground his house stands on, but pays the city an annual lease sum), but the socialists have managed to get some extra social housing (how that squares with the less social housing mentioned just now is as yet unknown) and some subsidised jobs for low-education people.
It’s a fascinating experiment, and as an Amsterdam citizen I’m definitely interested in a non-PvdA city government. The PvdA has been in power too long, and a spell in the opposition is healthy for democracy, the city, and even the PvdA itself. The question is how the social-democrats will behave in opposition. Parallels have been drawn with the national CDA, which was ousted from seven decades of power in 1994 and turned out to be absolutely lousy at waging opposition. It’s possible that the PvdA will have the same problem.
Still, the national angle is what really matters here. So far I’ve been assuming that D66 would work with the SP only in the direst of conditions, while the VVD de-facto excluded the socialists. Will that change? If it does it will have serious repercussions for coalition formation after the next national elections.
So far I’m assuming that D66 is a bit more OK with working with the SP, but the VVD isn’t. That’s mainly because the Amsterdam D66 chapter is pretty representative for other chapters, while the VVD one is much more left-wing than the rest of the country’s VVD chapters. Also, D66 leader Pechtold recently said nice things about the socialists (though careful negotiations will always remain necessary!), while there has been no official response from the national VVD yet. That might change, though.
In any case, something interesting has happened. Let’s see how it plays out.
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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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