May 17, 2017
Whither the Dutch coalition talks?
So, the Dutch coalition talks collapsed. Now what? All eyes are on the small Christian Union. Will they be more amenable to a deal than the Green Left? Yesterday we outlined that the CU is probably more aligned with the larger parties VVD, CDA and D66 on immigration, but not on inequality and the environment. Volkskrant goes into more detail of the CU's position today, and the picture is not encouraging for coalition negotiations. They quote former CU leader André Rouvoet saying that the VVD and CDA probably overestimate the differences between the CU and the GL even on immigration. And the CU has a principled disagreement with the liberal D66 on euthanasia. As a Christian party, they can't go along with the liberals on assisted suicide. Rouvoet says that inequality and sustainability lend themselves to quantification, which makes negotiating easier. But immigration and asylum are non-negotiable. The CU is, however, more pragmatic than the GL which is still painted as too idealistic. So it is still to be seen what the current CU leader Gert-Jan Segers will do.
Now, looking back at the failed negotiations, it seems that they only got going in earnest last week. There is a suggestion that "scout" Edith Schippers strung the parties along by keeping them at the table for a long time so it would be harder for any of them to walk away. But as soon as she pressured the parties to take a definite stand, the differences proved insurmountable. According to NRC, when the time came to get down to business on the areas of disagreement Schippers chose immigration and demanded clarity. If Schippers had chosen a different topic, such as the environment, she would have put the CDA and her own party VVD in a tough spot, because they are the two parties with the less ambitious agenda in that area. But she chose immigration which resulted in ejecting the Green Left from the table. Even though there was an attempt not to apportion blame, it is inevitable that the way the situation played out the GL will be seen as responsible for walking away from the negotiations.
If this is the way things are going to play out, VVD and CDA might as well go ahead and form a government with Geert Wilders' PVV. The only reason this is not being seriously considered is that Mark Rutte and the leader of CDA Sybrand Buma are still reeling from the experience of the first Rutte cabinet in 2010-2012. This was a coalition of VVD and CDA with outside PVV support, which fell apart after Wilders' refusal to sign up to an austerity turn. Now Wilders is insisting that his party is ready and willing to be part of the government, and asking Rutte and Buma to let bygones be bygones.