New coalition cabinet a difficult job

21st July 2003, Comments 0 comments

With Wednesday's election giving the Christian Democrats 43 seats, followed by 26 for Lijst Pim Fortuyn, attention has turned to the formation of a new coalition cabinet.

CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende

Coalition bargaining is a tortuous process that not only determines broad policy guidelines but usually the details of financing the new government's programme.

In the last 60 years, it took an average two months before a new Dutch Cabinet was formed, and in 1977 it took a record 207 days.

With the upstart LPF now the seccond largest party in parliament, it is now almost impossible to exclude it from government.

The "established" parties are said not to be enthusiastic about forming a government with the inexperienced and leader-less LPF, the debut party of assassinated anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn.

But CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende, who is likely to be the next Prime Minster, told the media after his party's victory on Wednesday that he would explore a possible partnership with Fortuyn's party.

"The voters gave the LPF a huge mandate," he was reported as saying.

But it still needs to choose a new leadership, he said, and then "we have to see how they act in the negotiations".

The most likely coalition to take office would be a three-party alliance of the CDA, LPF and the Liberals which would command a comfortable 92 seats in the Second Chamber, the dominant body of parliament.

Another possibility could involve the present governing coalition of the PvdA, VVD and D66 with the inclusion of GroenLinks.

Mat Herben, the LPF party spokesman and potential new leader was jubilant.

"This is fantastic," he said about the LPF's remarkable debut performance.

"I hope we will be able to reach a government agreement". It was thought that the election result would be influenced by voter emotions following the assassination of Fortuyn.

Outgoing PM: Wim Kok

Caretaker Prime Minister Wim Kok - who has also announced his retirement from parliament - urged the public on Tuesday to place their vote with reason, claiming that a vote could not be reversed and that every vote helped give direction to the Dutch society.

And the political reluctance of the nation's established parties to enter into a coalition with the inexperienced LPF has resulted in several other coalition possibilities being put forward.

One such possibility is a broad centre coalition involving the CDA, PvdA and VVD, but the largest disadvantage of this coalition is that the differences between the nation's largest parties could be stifled, so much so that opposition could only come from the flanks.

But besides a normal majority-rule cabinet, there are several other possibilities.

One of these is a so-called national cabinet, in which all or almost every political party would be represented. But the chances of its success - similar to a centre coalition - is small.

And national cabinets are only formed in exceptional circumstances, such as in times of war. There have been no national cabinets since the transitional Schermerhorn national cabinet prepared the Netherlands for elections after the end of World War II.

Another possibility could be the formation of a minority cabinet, which would count on support from a parliament minority. This means that parties which are not represented in the cabinet might choose to tolerate its existence.

The Den Uyl Cabinet in the 1970s was an example of a minority cabinet. This cabinet included ministers from the KVP and AR parties, but both parties were not officially included in the coalition agreement.

In the absence of a minority cabinet, a so-called extra-parliamentary cabinet might be formed without a formal discussion between the parliament's represented political parties. Such a cabinet's chances of success are also slim.

But such a cabinet did exist, with the Drees cabinets operating in the 1950s without a clear coalition agreement.

A special form of an extra-parliamentary cabinet could include leading members of the Dutch business community.

But even with these possibilities, it is certain that forming a new cabinet will not be easy, due in part to the high political tension leading up to Fortuyn's death and the emotional aftermath of his shock killing.

Either way - with the crushng defeat of the ruling parties and the CDA landslide - a change to the old order is most definite.

16 May 2002

[Copyright ANP/Expatica]

0 Comments To This Article