There’s not a great deal of news about the formation. Scout Schippers, who will likely be bumped up to informer soon, will talk with VVD, CDA, D66, and GL tomorrow. She also asked parliament for more time, which she’ll likely get.
The real problem here is almost exclusively a GL one. Klaver likely wants to enter the coalition, but not at any price. In fact, he’ll likely demand a fairly stiff price from especially the VVD. Today, in a mail to his supporters, he reiterated his preference for a six-party centre-left coalition, but said that Schippers concluded that the centre-right option was the only serious one. Klaver also promised to stick to his ideals, particularly when it comes to the Paris climate agreement and a humanitarian refugee policy.
Tomorrow’s discussion will not be called a negotiation session; apparently some more time is needed to get everyone involved to admit they’re in coalition negotiations. I assume it’s mostly the stark differences between VVD and GL that is the problem.
Look at it from Klaver’s perspective: he won hugely, and outright refusing to enter coalition negotiations would look very bad. Is GL maybe not ready for governmental responsibility? Did voters throw away their vote? Klaver absolutely cannot afford this narrative to take over. So he’ll negotiate.
He can ask a price that’s too high for VVD and CDA; likely something with taxes on environmentally problematic actions such as driving during rush hour, or taking in more refugees. The VVD will likely refuse, or at the very least try to compromise: a few new taxes, a few more refugees, that sort of thing.
Then it all comes down to appearances: will his voters believe Klaver has negotiated enough? If he walks out, who will be seen as the culpable party? Him, for asking too much, or Rutte, for offering too little? Rutte being prime minister he would likely win such a direct clash of narratives. So Klaver has to find exactly the right moment to walk out — and if it doesn’t come he’l be stuck inside a coalition he doesn’t really want.
Klaver has one true ally, and that’s Pechtold of D66. Pechtold truly wants GL in the coalition. GL is a serious competitor to D66 for the progressive-liberal vote, and if D66 stays in government while GL can wage opposition, many D66 voters will move to GL in the next elections; elections that may not be all that far off. So Pechtold will go out of his way to help Klaver. But will he also walk out of the negotiations if Klaver does? That would mean pitting a progressive D66+GL block against a conservative VVD+CDA block, and it would set a very bad tone for the negotiations, which D66, if not GL, will have to return to eventually.
It’s less clear to me where VVD and CDA stand in all this. On the one hand they would like to exchange GL for the CU, which is christian (important for the CDA) and economically centrist (important for both). On the other hand D66, as the most aggressively secular party, will not be pleased at all. Besides, this would pit an ethically progressive block (D66 + parts of VVD) against a conservative block (CDA + CU). Is that better or worse than a split on immigration and taxation? And the CU has 9 fewer seats than GL, for a bare minimum of 76 for VVD+CDA+D66+CU.
This is not easy. Do not expect a quick resolution, especially with the spectre of new elections next year hanging over the landscape. (Of course failure to come to a new coalition would only bring new elections closer.)
Today, Schippers had a brief talk with Wilders, and afterwards Wilders had a public sad because VVD and CDA didn’t want to form a coalition with him and excluded his voters. That’s true, strictly speaking, but VVD and CDA were very clear about all of this during the campaign, so it isn’t exactly a surprise to any voter.
CDA leader Buma stated, based on his experiences during Rutte I (2010-2012), that forming a coalition with Wilders doesn’t work. Also, in the last four years Wilders has done nothing to bridge the divide between him and the other parties; in fact he made the divide even larger. Later, VVD second-in-command Zijlstra said something similar. So no power for Wilders. We already knew that, but it’s nice to see it confirmed.
Incidentally, this is the position GL does not want to find itself in in five or ten years. If Klaver walks out on what is perceived to be a minor point the party will have an aura of unreliability and unseriousness for years.
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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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