What options are left in the Netherlands now that Peter Omtzgut has pulled the plug on forming a government?

It appears that the chances of forming a Dutch majority government led by Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom have been lost. The objections of Peter Omtsigt’s National Security Council, which had been heard since day one, were very significant on Tuesday evening. This decision brings other scenarios back to the table. What are the odds?

Raoul du Pré

Peter Umtzigt (New Social Contract) hinted at this before the election, and often continued to speculate on the subject shortly afterwards: he is quite prepared to support the government generally, but preferably from Parliament, without engaging with ministers himself. He sees this as part of his plan to strengthen the countervailing power of the House of Representatives vis-à-vis the Council of Ministers: a government that cannot automatically rely on a majority will have to take more account of the House’s criticism.

Now that Umtsigt has said he has no interest in participating, the minority option will almost certainly be on the table again. The main question is whether the PVV, led by Geert Wilders, the VVD, led by Dylan Jeseljos, and the BBB, led by Caroline van der Plas, dare to do so. If Umtzigt only supports the government in general, it can also engage with the opposition in the House of Representatives in many areas. On a daily basis, the Cabinet may be confronted with the wishes of the parliamentary majority that conflict with Cabinet policy.

Ministers are constantly at risk of the parliamentary majority losing confidence in them. This is not an attractive prospect for experienced managers, who would probably have to leave a good job for it.

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This option was mentioned again by Omtzigt on Tuesday evening. Opinions differ on what exactly forming an extra-parliamentary government entails. In general, this means that the House appoints a coordinator who then assembles a Cabinet of Ministers who do not necessarily have ties to a political party, but who are, for example, very expert in their policy area. A parliamentary majority could assign such a government to govern the country and then evaluate all bills separately. Consequently, such a government could rule with varying parliamentary majorities.

In Umtzigt’s view, this construction would also enhance the crucial countervailing power of the House of Representatives. Doubts prevail among other parties, because the Netherlands has no experience in this matter at all. It will be a major political experiment. Many of the practical political objections to minority government also apply to this construction.

Geert Wilders (PVV) in early February after a conversation with informant Ronald Blasterk.ANB photo

The results of the November 22 elections were so convincing for the right that no one wanted to talk about them at the time, but there is also another option to form a majority government. The VVD, NSC, D66 and GroenLinks-PvdA together have 78 seats in the House of Representatives. Programmatically, these parties are not farther away than the four parties that have tried to form in the past two months. In financial, social and economic areas, the differences are smaller.

However, the differences are significant when it comes to immigration policy, the topic of the final weeks of the election campaign. The VVD blasted the previous government over dissatisfaction with stagnant immigration policy, to which a party like D66 has a different view in principle. This certainly also applies to GroenLinks-PvdA, although almost all parties have moved towards a tougher path in the past year.

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Until now, party leader Yesilgoz has always made it clear that although governing with the FFP is complicated for her, forming a government with left-wing parties is not actually an option. The majority of its voters do not want that either, according to all election polls. For VVD, embarking on such an adventure again would make last year’s entire strategy a failure in one fell swoop. So the chance of Yesilgöz starting this is very slim.

VVD party leader Dylan Yeselgoz.  ANB photo

VVD party leader Dylan Yeselgoz.ANB photo

Umtsigt needed many words on Tuesday evening to draw attention – once again – to his objections to participating in a right-wing government. At the beginning of its formation, it was mainly about the Freedom Party dealing with the rule of law, but now it is mainly concerned with fiscal policy.

However, the good listener also noticed that he did not close the door completely. “At this point we don’t want that,” he said when asked. Meanwhile, he says he still wants to wait for Detective Ronald Blasterk’s conclusions. He will also be curious to see how his supporters react to the move in the coming days.

The chances are not great in advance, but it would not be the first time that a failed formation attempt has been resumed after some time. The passage of time and circumstances can suddenly change everything in politics. The formation of 1994 is famous, when the VVD led by Fritz Bolkestein first left negotiations with the PvdA and D66, but rejoined some time later after informant Wim Kok wrote a draft of the coalition agreement. Cook’s first government was coming to an end shortly afterwards.

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This is always an option. But who will tell voters? Who dares, knowing that voters these days change their preferences so rapidly that no one can guarantee that winning seats on November 22 will not turn into a dramatic loss? Or a loss greater than what has already been incurred?

It is also uncertain that the new elections will lead to a result that allows the formation of a government. Therefore, some other options will first be explored before the parliamentary majority dares to discuss a new date for the elections.

Denton Watson

"Friend of animals everywhere. Evil twitter fan. Pop culture evangelist. Introvert."

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