No winners as Dutch politics' marriage of convenience ends

No winners as Dutch politics' marriage of convenience ends

23rd April 2012, Comments 4 comments

When Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders turned his back on the ruling coalition he not only undermined the premier, but he also burned up his own political credit, analysts said Sunday.

The breakdown after seven weeks of talks on austerity measures between Premier Mark Rutte's ruling coalition and Wilders' eurosceptic, anti-Islamist Freedom Party (PVV) has destabilised the political scene.

Wilders walked out of the talks on Saturday saying his party "could not live up to" European Union demands, arguing that the cuts aimed at steering The Netherlands back within EU deficit targets would hit the elderly the hardest.

The walkout prompted Rutte, who formed a ruling coalition 18 months ago between his Freedom and Democracy Party (VVD) and the smaller Christian Democrat (CDA) party, to announce that early elections now seemed likely.

In what has been viewed as a marriage of convenience, the coalition has been able to rely on the backing of the PVV's 24 lawmakers in the 150-seat lower house for the passage of certain legislation by one vote.

But that one-seat majority evaporated when a PVV deputy decided to become an independent.

On Saturday, "the deal with (the PVV) expired," Rene Tissen, a business economics professor at Nijenrode University near Utrecht, told AFP. "The Rutte government is now truly a minority government," he added.

"The prime minister now would have to go hat-in-hand to the opposition if he wants anything done."

But Alfred Pijpers, former Dutch political expert with the prestigious Clingendael Institute, said the PVV was the big loser.

"It was Wilders' last chance to make a big impact," he said. "Even if there are new elections, there is no other party likely to go into a coalition or even an informal parliamentary partnership" with the PVV.

For the past six months or so, there had already been moves within the CDA to break with the PVV, Pijpers said, adding: "It is not a stable party."

A poll of 4,500 people by independent Dutch polling company Maurice de Hond, carried out late Saturday and early Sunday, suggested that Rutte's VVD would win 33 seats in a snap election -- two more than it currently holds.

Wilders' party would get 19; five fewer than in 2010.

But while Rutte's VVD continues to score well in opinion polls, his personal reputation has taken a hit, analysts said.

Since coming to power, Rutte repeatedly declined to criticise Wilders' anti-Islamist and eurosceptic policies.

Wilders' initiatives included a controversial anti-immigrant website to report "trouble" involving eastern and central European immigrants that offended several European countries.

With the collapse of the political arrangement between the parties, Rutte's "reputation as a politician has taken a serious knock," Pijpers told AFP.

"The situation now calls for leadership," Tissen added. "It is now the time for Rutte to become a statesman, not just a normal opportunistic politician."

But Wilders remained defiant Sunday, responding in typical fashion via a Tweet on the social network Twitter.

"The PVV is unanimously against the dictats of Brussels and the attack on our elderly," Wilders said.

His walkout was "clearly aimed at luring voters," Tissen said. "It's a gamble on elderly people so that they might tell themselves that Wilders cares about their problems."


AFP/ Jan Hennop/ Expatica





3 Comments To This Article

  • Andrea posted:

    on 25th April 2012, 11:45:35 - Reply

    @Joe - do you mean that we cannot criticize the Catholic church for the abuse of children or how they collude with power (for example how they absolve druglords in Mexico in exchange for a new church building)? What do you mean by speaking against "Christianity"? Are your neighbours throwing things at you because you are Christian? Seriously? The advantages of a secular society are much wider for any religion than otherwise. You might believe that if you don't follow the rules that you have hand-picked from the Bible you might go to hell but that has never been proven. We cannot base law and government based on beliefs. That does not mean that you are not free to pursue whatever belief you might want or that the State should dictate how a religion is organised. The only exception here is when activities from a given religion are breaking the law. And let me stress THE LAW, it is not someone's opinion.

    @MJ If you don't think Rutte has been opportunistic then why has he trampled on liberal principles? I'll tell you why, to snug up to Wilders' in exchange for his minions support (there are no members allowed in his party, remember?). Rutte of course did not get that same support. Many VVDers support reform and changes but were not very happy with the points from Wilders. Weinglas and other VVD prominents were clearly outspoken against this constructions. And the liberals in other EU countries were, to put it mildly, amazed.
  • MJ posted:

    on 25th April 2012, 11:21:28 - Reply

    Mark Rutte is NOT a 'normal opportunistic politician' for not speaking out against Wilders. He is a gracious, fair person who believes in the power of democracy -- the intelligence and rights of his constituents and the people of Holland that he is working so hard for, to FREELY, without being manipulated or even bullied into it (the usual tactics of 'opportunists!) to choose what's in the best interests of his country and the world we live in. I think he's exhibited true 'statesmanship' and has what it takes to lead NL to greatness!
  • Joe posted:

    on 24th April 2012, 13:39:49 - Reply

    "far right"? So if someone speaks out against Islam, they are "far right" but if they speak out against Christianity and advocate atheism they are "progressive" and "liberal"?