June 26, 2020
An interesting candidacy in Dutch politics
The race for the leadership of a party in the Dutch government coalition would not normally attract out attention, but Dutch politics plays an unusually important role in the forthcoming discussions on the European recovery fund. As RTL news reports, Pieter Omtzigt, a eurosceptic MP, has applied to become the leader of the CDA. These are the Dutch Christian Democrats, a senior member of Mark Rutte’s coalition and a member of the EPP in the European Parliament. Rutte is the leader of the VVD, the liberals.
The CDA is also the party of Wopke Hoekstra, who decided he is not a born politician and that he will not run for the leadership after all. The leadership election matters because the CDA is the main rival to Rutte’s VVD in the Dutch conservative political centre. Both are fishing in liberal but eurosceptic political waters. We reported on a recent poll that a majority of the Dutch, and a large majority of those who support the CDA, are opposed to the European Commission’s version of the recovery fund and in favour of their own government’s approach. Rutte and the rest of the frugal four have indicated that they are ready to compromise on the fund. There is no talk of vetos. But the trends in Dutch politics are telling us that we should not take his support for granted. He will try to strike a hard bargain. If Rutte were to accept a soft compromise, a new CDA leader could have a field day ahead of the 2021 elections.
So, who is Omtzigt? He is not your average eurosceptic. He is best known for speaking out on corruption in Malta, and on Russia’s role in the downing of the MH17 plane over Ukraine. He is classic parliamentarian, respected in his party but previously seen as unlikely to run for the leadership. We make no predictions about the outcome. We presume that one of the other candidates, Hugo de Jonge who is deputy PM and health minister, would also be a strong contender. We consider this leadership election as a bellwether. If Omtzigt were to win it, Dutch politics would become a tad more complicated and an EU-level deal on the recovery fund would become more difficult. All of this will be decided before the next EU summit. There will be a short campaign, followed by a referendum among CDA member on July 6-9.