Formation continues, but Rutte is still an obstacle

The brand-new informateur Herman Tjeenk Willink has spent the past two days talking to all seventeen group chairmen about how to proceed with the formation. Content is paramount, says the 79-year-old Minister of State, but personal relationships are upside down.

Most parties that last week called for Mark Rutte to leave as prime minister, are unwilling to slow down eight days later.

“The problem is that Mark Rutte lied,” said PvdA leader Lilianne Ploumen on Friday, after she returned from her conversation with Tjeenk Willink.

Rutte firmly denied this allegation in the debate, but was believed by no one except for the VVD faction.

That is why SP leader Lilian Marijnissen finds it “implausible” to negotiate with Rutte and Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) does not see how the VVD leader can regain confidence.

Only D66 and CDA do not completely close the door for the VVD leader. After his election defeat, CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra does not really want to talk about government responsibility at all.

‘You can spend a long time dealing with problems in The Hague’

Tjeenk Willink’s quest to eventually reach a coalition is therefore as little as possible about the people for the time being. “Not a single person has been named in my assignment,” the informant stressed during his first press conference on Wednesday.

“People are concerned about when they get the first injection, young people feel trapped and entrepreneurs want to know what will happen with the aid,” said Tjeenk Willink. Personal relationships between politicians should not overshadow these tasks, the informateur suggested. “You can spend a long time dealing with the problems here in The Hague.”

The fact that the media subsequently concluded that Tjeenk Willink does not see any obstacles in Rutte was also not the intention. On Friday, the informateur pointed out in a written statement that the restoration of confidence is central to his mission.

Rutte keeps quiet

That process takes time, while the campaign emphasized that the formation should not take too long because of the corona crisis.

“That is exactly the challenge,” Hoekstra said on Friday. “We are faced with a major challenge due to corona and its aftermath. On the other hand, something has happened with mutual trust. You have to recover that before you can continue.”

Rutte, the protagonist unwillingly, has been on the flat for days. “I can’t say much about it now,” was the brief reaction of the VVD leader after his one and a half hour conversation with Tjeenk Willink.

For example, the man who actually wanted to work on a “national recovery plan” at the beginning of April stands in the way of the self-suggested “flying start”.

D66 and left-wing opposition have no interest in new elections

“They are stuck,” says Joost van Spain professor of political science at the University of London. “Rutte seems to remain determined as leader of the VVD, but at the same time there is no basis of trust.”

Still, Rutte is attractive to those who want a cabinet with middle parties, says Van Spain. “Rutte excludes cooperation with the right-wing parties FVD and PVV, so he has to go to the middle and to the left.”

D66 can therefore now cash in on its election win and left-wing parties also have a position of power. Van Spain: “After the next election, there may be another option to rule over the right, for example if JA21 becomes larger or if other parties are no longer excluded. This is an election result that D66, PvdA, SP and GroenLinks can do something with. . ”

A change of leadership at the VVD yields different insights. For example, the name of Edith Schippers sings around the Binnenhof. The former VVD minister was in the past very critical on the exclusion of the PVV.

In short: D66 and the left-wing parties do not benefit from new elections or a departure of Rutte, Van Spain concluded.

Rutte the symbol of ‘entrenched administrative culture’

According to Matthijs Rooduijn, political scientist at the University of Amsterdam, the future coalition parties in particular have something to explain when they join a new cabinet with Rutte at the helm.

“All parties except the VVD have supported the motion of censure against Rutte. They will have to go through complicated turns to explain participation in a cabinet under his leadership,” says Rooduijn.

According to the political scientist, after ten years as prime minister, Rutte is seen as the symbol of the “entrenched administrative culture” in The Hague. After the benefits affair and recently the riot surrounding the Omtzigt memorandum, a different management style is an important theme in this formation.

Minority cabinet ‘logical option’

If D66 and CDA indeed turn out to be the only parties that want to continue with Rutte, there is always the possibility of a minority cabinet. “Coalition agreements cannot then be boarded up and there will be a much more open debate between the cabinet and the House. We know from the Scandinavian countries that this can work well,” says Rooduijn.

The break with a detailed coalition agreement is a broader wish in The Hague. D66 leader Sigrid Kaag already suggested it and Tjeenk Willink also brought it up. However, there is little enthusiasm for a minority coalition, according to previous conversations with the scouts.

Spain points out that the caretaker cabinet had not had a majority in the House of Representatives since October 2019, after VVD member Wybren van Haga had joined FVD. “There had been no majority in the Senate for some time. It is a logical option,” said Van Spain.

Tjeenk Willink will be given three weeks by the House of Representatives to investigate whether confidence can still be restored. For the time being, there is little progress after one week. “We are still at the same point as last week”, was Klaver’s unhelpful conclusion in that regard.
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