New step in Dutch formation: PVV, VVD, NSC, and BBB aim for extra-parliamentary cabinet


It has been more than a hundred days since the PVV (Far-Right Party) emerged as the big winner in the Dutch parliamentary elections. Today, ‘informateur’ (the one exploring options for a new cabinet) Kim Putters published his report on the formation process. Last week it became clear that PVV, VVD (Conservative Liberals), NSC (New Social Contract – Social Conservatives), and BBB (Farmer-Citizen Movement) are willing to continue negotiations on cooperation in a cabinet. The question in recent weeks has mainly been about the form. Putters advises the parties to continue negotiating on cooperation in what he calls a program cabinet, or an “extra-parliamentary” cabinet, including a broad coalition agreement without details.

What has happened in recent weeks?
After NSC prematurely ended the previous formation round, the chance of cooperation with PVV, NSC, and BBB seemed distant. At least in the form of a classic majority cabinet. Kim Putters, chair of the Social and Economic Council (SER), was therefore appointed as the successor to informateur Ronald Plasterk to explore other possible forms of government. For this, he not only spoke (again) with the various faction leaders, but also with experts such as scientists and former politicians. His report now shows that the parties are willing to cooperate, but in a cabinet form where the connection between coalition parties and the cabinet is looser than usual. Unknown and new territory.

Therefore, Putters proposes that the parties continue to speak in the coming period about substantive themes and further elaboration of cooperation in an extra-parliamentary cabinet. A wish that has been cherished since day one by NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt, but initially, the other parties were more hesitant. After the last debate on the formation, VVD leader Yesilgöz indicated, however, that she was willing to negotiate such a form, on the condition that the NSC would also provide ministers. Whether all parties will provide ministers, including NSC, has not yet been formally agreed upon.

What does the new form of government look like?
Informateur Putters describes in his report based on the conversations he had in recent weeks with experts and faction leaders how such a cabinet can be shaped. Unlike a regular majority cabinet, the participating parties do not detail their policies, and a majority is sought for each subject. However, the parties must reach cooperation agreements and a concise coalition agreement. This offers external parties more opportunities to contribute to the elaboration of plans in the coming years. In addition, the current situation provides even more reason to actively engage in the policy process and build relationships with factions in the House of Representatives.

Although informateur Putters speaks of a concise coalition agreement, his report shows that the parties want to reach agreements on a wide range of issues. Besides asylum and migration, other topics mentioned include nitrogen and nature, social security and purchasing power, health care housing, ‘good governance’, security, finance, the rule of law and the business climate. So the question is to what extent a concise agreement in all these areas is realistic.

Also notable is that the party leaders of the coalition parties remain in the House of Representatives. Ministers and State Secretaries will be partly drawn from outside politics, and partly from “The Hague” (whether or not from the coalition parties). Putters advises to consider at a later stage how the appointment of a Prime Minister will take place. Presumably, the four parties will jointly appoint a Prime Minister, in which PVV leader Geert Wilders will likely have a decisive vote. At first glance, not a very attractive position, given the fact that the four party leaders in the House will feel more freedom to criticize the cabinet’s policies.

Since the elections, the House of Representatives has been acting – more or less forced – somewhat in the spirit of such an extra-parliamentary cabinet. Due to the shifts in composition, surprising and changing majorities have emerged, with coalition parties no longer automatically supporting each other’s proposals. Although this approach provides flexibility in seeking majorities, it also brings problems. Especially in areas where parties strongly differ, such as foreign policy. Moreover, it is very difficult in such a form to achieve coherent policy, which can lead to an unpredictable government. These risks should not be underestimated in light of the recent discussions about the business climate.

Next steps
Presumably, the House of Representatives will debate the report of informateur Kim Putters on Wednesday, March 20. Then a new informateur is expected to be appointed to lead the next formation round. PVV, VVD, NSC, and BBB will continue to discuss the content of possible cooperation in the coming period. Although the proposed form does not establish a detailed coalition agreement, some consensus on crucial themes (such as climate, migration, and foreign policy) is essential. For companies and organizations, this offers opportunities for influence.

If the four parties really cannot reach an agreement with each other in the next round, the House of Representatives may give the initiative to GroenLinks-PvdA (cooperation between the Greens and Labor) as the second party. Then party leader Frans Timmermans must of course agree, and the VVD plays a key role. After all, they have previously ruled out governing with GroenLinks-PvdA, making a center cabinet impossible. If all possible options lead to nothing, the House of Representatives may even consider new elections. However, that scenario seems distant now.

Public Matters closely follows the formation process. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, we are happy to assist you further!

"Although the proposed form does not establish a detailed coalition agreement, some consensus on crucial themes (such as climate, migration, and foreign policy) is essential. For companies and organizations, this offers important opportunities for influence."

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