To a minority cabinet, these are the options now

After months of formation, theres still no cabinet. Worrisome, informer Mariëtte Hamer thinks. She presented her final report yesterday. She calls it “a situation that will not increase citizens trust in politics”. Shes now advocating a minority coalition.

VVD coryfee Johan Remkes is probably taking over from Hamer. He has to break the deadlock. What are his options? We ask political reporter Arjan Noorlander.

First: why did the parties fail to form a coalition?

According to Hamer, the parties she spoke were mostly concerned with the imaging process. They didnt want to move towards each other or put the content first. “You always have parties to scan each other,” says Noorlander. “But were still just scanning after 5.5 months.”

“The leadership of all those politicians is weak. They fear their own supporters. The left-wing leaders, Lilianne Ploumen (PvdA) and Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks), do not dare to participate. Theyre too afraid their voters dont want to.”

“Wopke Hoekstra (CDA) has had a bad campaign, is just a leader and is anxious that CDA people say: youre not good. Mark Rutte (VVD) got a few hits at the Omtzigt debate. The only thing he seems to go for: my VVD supporters have to keep plumging me.”

“Sigrid Kaag (D66) won in the election and shouted very hard we are going for a liberal and progressive Netherlands. You may want to, but can never get you in. It seems like she doesnt want to understand that because shes afraid what her constituents are going to say.”

“Everyones stuck in: my friends resent me if I put something water with the wine, so I dont do anything at all. Thats the situation were in: completely paralyzed.”

But everyone wanted a new cabinet soon, right?

After the election, all parties said: its crisis, so we need to form a new coalition as soon as possible. And in terms of content, the differences seemed best to bridge, says Noorlander. “There are quite a few problems that need to be addressed: the housing crisis, the climate crisis. These are all topics where the parties can come out with each other. But they dont want it because they dont want to belong together.”

Whats more, the most urgent crisis was not so urgent after all. The economy is recovering rapidly from the corona blow. “So theres money and time to put things off. The impossible doesnt have to.”

Also, the relations between them have still not recovered from the Omtzigt debate. Noorlander: “The Chamber then tried very hard to destroy Ruttes political career because of his lies. That just didnt work out, but the atmosphere has fallen into it: electorally by far the biggest party has been sidelined by all other parties.”

That sounds little hopeful. What are the options now?

The VVD is now taking the lead, with Remkes as an informer. He will explore three options for a minority coalition.

The greatest chance is the combination VVD, D66 and CDA, says Noorlander. This coalition is preferred by Hoekstra and Rutte and has the most seats (72) out of the three. “You only need one small batch to reach a majority,” says Noorlander.

“They can occasionally shop at GroenLinks, the ChristenUnie, possibly even at JA21 or Geert Wilders. The downside is that Kaag says: I have to work with two conservative parties, I dont feel like that.”

Exit CDA then? Noorlander: “The advantage of the VVD and D66 combination is that there is the conservative VVD and the progressive D66, a fair distribution. They have spoken more together as well. The downside is that you have to talk to two or three other parties to get majorities for your plans.”

Then there is the CDA + VVD option. “This variant is all about the right, which fits quite well with the results of the elections. But you have the chance that the left-wing parties really drop out and the club will have to do business with JA21, PVV and Baudet all the time. Thats not always easy on a lot of topics either.”

“Theres no more luxury option, everything is complicated. The route to these options is brittle anyway.”

New elections then?

If conversations about a minority coalition fail, everything is possible again, says Noorlander. “Its quite conceivable that nothing works out. If nothing can be done, everything can be done again.”

New elections will be an option. But thats not a favourable scenario for the middle parties who are now trying to form. “Then you have a chance that political groups will win on the flanks. PVV, Forum, SP and the Party for the Animals really want a fundamentally different Netherlands. These parties make it even harder to do business.”

Remkes will therefore be really betting on a minority cabinet with as many seats as possible. If that doesnt work, then comesyoure actually back in a normal political situation, says Noorlander. “Yet again talks with the Christian Union, with the left-wing parties again. Or maybe a very broad business cabinet with ten officials from ten different parties.”