Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Minority Government

The Fragmented Dutch political landscape

The Dutch political landscape is splintering and in the June elections this resulted in a heavy fragmented Left and Right. Both with four parties. Under such circumstances it is difficult to form a cabinet which can constitute a viable government. An added difficulty on the right is the Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders, which breaks the consensus of the political elite on Islam, multiculturalism and mass-immigration.

Negotiations to form a cabinet

Negotiations in June on a right-wing government of Christian-Democrats (CDA), right-liberals (VVD) and PVV broke down in June. Especially the CDA was hostile to Wilders' anti-Islamic agenda. Due to the adverse economic situation Labour (PvdA) did not want to form a leftwing government, they feel the need to shrink the state budget and the leftwing partners could not be made to agree. A centre government of the main leftwing and rightwing parties was tried but was found wanting. Meanwhile the PVV started rising in the polls again and taking votes from the rightwing parties, who were shrinking.

We are seven weeks without a government now and counting.

The minority Cabinet

The Queen appoints a functionary who leads the negotiations, a informateur. In each variant the informateur concerned gave up his mission to form a cabinet.

This week the Queen advised CDA-leader Verhagen to co-operate to try a new variant on the right. They must form a minority cabinet with the right-liberal VVD, which would be tacitly supported in key areas by the PVV. Or other fleeting coalitions of non-government parties in order to legislate specific issues.

A declaration of discord

This is leading to some results. As parties come closer to a deal, the need for caveats and conditions is felt and yesterday CDA, VVD and PVV made a joint declaration on their differences on how they view Islam.

The declaration was translated and put on GoV. It reads:
The three parties VVD, PVV, and CDA disagree about the nature and character of Islam. The dividing line is in the characterization of the Islam as either a religion or a (political) ideology.

Parties accept each other’s different views on this subject and will also act on this based on their own views.

However, there is much that binds the parties: making the Netherlands stronger, safer, and more prosperous is the common goal and starting point.

- - - - - - - - -

Therefore — accepting each other’s differences of opinion and fully assigning to one another the freedom of expression with regard to the differences of opinion — it is agreed that the PVV will support elements of the yet-to-be-negotiated government agreement from a position of support. The VVD and CDA will on their part honor the wishes of the PVV in the support agreement to be settled.

In any case the, such support agreement arrangements should settle the details of the measures for budget cuts and firm agreements on immigration, integration and asylum, safety, and better care for the elderly, whereby it is clear that for the PVV the willingness to support the budget cuts is linked to the content of the agreements to be settled in the fields of immigration, integration and asylum, safety and elderly care.

Mark Rutte [VVD]
Geert Wilders [PVV]
Maxime Verhagen [CDA]

The Hague, July 30, 2010
So the PVV has not had to compromise its view that Islam is a political ideology and not a mere religion. While the leftwing of the CDA is appeassed by the declaration's insistence that the Christian-Democrats see things differently.

The benefits of this almost a deal

Taking a long view this set-up may be very beneficial for the PVV. They keep their distance to the government, while being able to deliver some real benefits to their voter base. VVD and CDA will get the plush jobs but in a few years there will be new elections and they will probably have to face a strengthened PVV which is becoming the premier rightwing party.

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