Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 08:42:12 AM EST
More than 4 months after the Dutch general elections in June, the new Dutch government will today be sworn in, led by the 43-years old foreman of the VVD (Liberals), Mark Rutte, as the new prime-minister of The Netherlands. The new cabinet is a minority coalition of VVD and the CDA (Christian Democrats), supported only by 52 seats whereas 76 parliamentary seats are required for a majority.
The cabinet of the selected 12 ministers and 8 secretaries of state can hardly be accused of being inexperienced, but are a mockery to invigorating politics: except for 3 women, it consists of old men, most of them being veteran politicians. Most of them are very well-connected to the two leaders of the two parties, or were closely involved with the process of forming the government. The word "clique" can come to mind.
With the government, national politics in the Netherlands will bank towards pet subjects of the right, some of them completely unattainable, while none of the major issues are to be addressed, spelling further ill news for the country. Conspicuously absent from the ceremony is Geert Wilders, whose wet dream is coming true with this government: the minority government of CDA and VVD is propped up in power only by the stranglehold of the anti-Islam populist party who will have no governmental responsibility. What really matters, however, is how the stability of the government will cope, as it balances on a hair's breadth.
Dutch Parliament contains 150 seats, thus 76 seats are necessary to form a majority. VVD became in June the biggest party with 31 seats, while the CDA lost seats and kept 21. With the 24 seats of the party of Wilders, this makes 76 seats – the smallest possible majority if all parties vote as a block. And this is exactly the problem. While it was unsurprising to see that the hawkish Verhagen, now becoming the country's no. 2 as Deputy Prime Minister, would shuttle the CDA even further to the right, the result has been an open schism in the party with members of the party in fundamental disagreement about cooperation with Wilders. This has already resulted in the walk-out of two prominent CDA members, and what's worse for the stability of the CDA, two members of the 21 MP have publicly expressed their distrust and antipathy for working with Wilders.
The typical party discipline clamped down in the past week, and the two dissidents have given their vote of approval to the new government – for now.
Not all is lost for the scramble of votes that will continuously be part of Dutch politics as of today. Because there still is the Party of Fossils, whom I described in 2006 as:
European Tribune - The Dutch Political Right
The Dutch Christian Fundies. They are the oldest political party, have never been in the government and for as long as I remember are stuck with two to three seats in parliament. Perhaps they could have twice as many seats, if the party wasn't constantly proclaiming that women have no role in politics and shouldn't be entitled to vote. Most of their adherents come forth from the Dutch Bible Belt. [..] Hopefully by 2050 the party will finally collapse under the influence of inbreeding and sheer stupidity.
The SGP was, again, awarded with 2 seats this election, and having climbed on the honking band-wagon of Islam-scare as any insanely fundamentalist Christian party, they could potentially plug the gap if the two CDA dissidents refuse to buckle. Of course any party could plug the gap, but the SGP aligns eerily often with Wilders, supporting about 30% of the proposed motions of the Wilders bunch.
Internal friction will likely be a far more interesting dynamic in the coming time than watching the opposition parties formulate an answer to the current shift to right-wing power. The PvdA (Labour), so jubilant when Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen took over the party's leadership, looks adrift and sullen in their new opposition role, even while they form the largest opposition party with 30 seats. The Socialist Party, which took a heavy beating in the elections similarly struggles with its new foreman. D66 and Green Left, fitted with capable and experienced leaders, are looking more ready for battle against the tide of Wilders. It is possible that a new political alignment may form: with the CDA now showing its true face by moving out of the centre, a gap yawns in the political middle. The PvdA could make the final leap to become a centrist party and let the Socialist Party become the only real party on the left flank. Cohen may be the right man for doing just that, but this remains all very speculative on my part.