On the Dutch Elections, Part Two

by Shaker Glauke

[Part One can be read here.]

On June the 9th, the Dutch elected their new parliament. The new MPs are officially installed. But more importantly: There are indications that the new government isn't going to be all that bad. Spoiler Alert: Geert Wilders' Freedom Party is out of the current round of negotiations.

Holland has a multi-party system. But because we have always had substantial minorities—in contrast to, for example, Denmark—we've never experimented with minority governments. Instead, we build coalitions, that make negotiate a "regeerakkoord" or governing agreement. It's not perfect, but it works. Well, it usually works.

The coalition-building is done in two phases—the information and the formation. In the information phase, the party leaders discuss their preferences, and perhaps their "absolutely not" with the informateur. There is no real translation for informateur, but he is appointed by the queen as a go-between for the parties. When there is an agreement, one or more formateur(s) is or are appointed to look for the ministers and junior ministers to form the government.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of developments.

First of all, the VVD and Freedom Party seemed to want to form a government. That required a third party, so they looked to the Christian Democrats (CDA). CDA members are deeply divided over the question whether they should govern with the Freedom Party, for all the obvious reasons.* Additionally, CDA has lost almost half their votes, so they're not very eager to join the government. Thirdly, even if Freedom Party and the VVD agree on immigration (against), development cooperation (against), more police in the streets (in favor), and fewer civil servants (in favor), they differ hugely on socio-economic issues.

So, CDA MP Maxime Verhagen decided it would be better if VVD and the Freedom Party work out their differences before CDA joins the negotiations. Weird, from a team-building & negotiations perspective. Geert Wilders didn't want to start negotiations without CDA. Net result is a right-wing coalition is off the table.

Which means that Purple Plus is back on! Purple Plus is code for Purple (VVD, Social Democrats and D'66—the LibDems Dutch cousins if that helps) Plus GreenLeft. Which hurts like hell for VVD, because they have to work with more progressive and more left wing parties. I'm really not sure how it will work out for the Greens. I mean, we've casually tossed the notion of governing with the VVD having drinks after a party convention, but actually doing it... feels... weird.

Monday, the queen has appointed two informers, one Labour, one VVD. They have started negotiations today. Without the Freedom Party. It's not a done deal, but it seems this country is not going down the drain just yet.

Also: The Dutch football squad beat Brazil 2-1 and is playing Uruguay tonight.


* Most importantly, the Freedom Party is racist, and wants out of the EU. But the Christian Democrats may also have their doubts about the governing skills of the Freedom Party: There is no internal party democracy, so there are no obvious candidates for the ministerial positions outside of the MP candidates list. Finally, it has been argued that because of these things, governing with the Freedom Party violates the party's basic principles.

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