Our expatriate Dutch correspondent H. Numan has looked into his foggy crystal ball to get an idea of what will happen in two upcoming sets of elections in the Netherlands. The result is below.
Balkenende IV died. Long live Balkenende V!
by H. Numan
Saturday morning I read the somehow surprising news the cabinet collapsed. Why surprising? Well, to be honest: I expected they would use the weekend to patch up the differences. The deadline was set for the first of March, after all. There was absolutely no need for a crisis over a minor issue like this.
Who caused the collapse? Of course it seems the PvdA party did it. They were the ones who said: enough is enough. This is where we stand, and we won’t move an inch. But who forced them into that position? That was the CDA.
The Christians in the cabinet (CDA and CU) wanted to continue the mission in Afghanistan, but under a different name. The Dutch troops would be withdrawn from Uruzghan and placed in a less dangerous position, and would act as trainers.
That is window dressing, as the troops do very little towards building up Afghanistan as they are supposed to do. They are far too busy defending themselves or attacking the Taliban. In other words: the CDA would like to continue the mission, despite a big parliamentary majority to stop the mission.
Okay. We’ll be hearing a lot of name-calling the coming weeks. Who killed the cabinet? Professor Plum? Colonel Mustard? Actually it was Reverend Green who forced Miss Scarlett to commit the crime.
Rest assured that a lot of PvdA cadres will be out of a job after the 3rd of March. On that day we’ll have municipal elections. The PvdA is going to loose massively. The jobless PvdA cadre will not be happy and very vocal about it. Remember Mrs. Ella Vogelaar? She wrote a book Twintig maanden knettergek (“Twenty months going bonkers”) about how capable she was, and her boss Wouter Bos likewise incapable. Many of those out-of-a-job PvdA people will want to say something, and most of it won’t be good. Expect many battalions of skeletons marching out of the cupboard.
To my utter surprise, Mr. Balkenende announced he will run again for the job of prime minister after the elections. He’s led four cabinets, and all of them died in a similar way. None of them made it properly to the finish. There is (so far) no opposition to him within the CDA party, so it’s not unlikely that he’ll have another shot at the job. I seriously doubt if the electorate would like to see him again as PM. But we have to wait for the national elections for that.
Normally, the municipal elections are pretty boring. No big surprise there, I guess. This time it’s different. These elections will be used as a kind of fogged crystal ball to see what the national elections will bring. We don’t really need the municipals for that. I can tell you already: unless I am very much mistaken the PvdA will consider the elections excellent if they keep anything above 10 seats. The CDA will probably be very happy if they get 20-25 seats. The municipal elections, of course, work differently. But the idea is to count the votes and project them onto the national level.
However, this crystal-ball gazing is fogged. The PVV, almost certain to be the big winner of the national elections, is only participating in two cities: The Hague and Almere. That means that those who want to vote for the PVV will have to pick something else. That else will be the conservative party (VVD) or TROTS, the party of ex-VVD Mrs. Verdonk. On a national level it’s extremely doubtful if Mrs. Verdonk will keep her single seat, let alone get more.
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This does not necessarily mean the voters would like to vote for the VVD or TROTS, but simply that they haven’t any other choice. During the national elections they do have that choice, which will yield a very different outcome.
And then what? That’s a tough question. Coalition governments are always difficult to create. The more parties, the more difficult it is.
Holland usually has three party coalitions, which is difficult enough already. Current polls show it is likely that four parties will be needed to gain a parliamentary majority. Very few four-party coalitions run the full course. If we get a four-party coalition, it is almost a certainty that this cabinet won’t last long.
But it all depends on the electorate. Pim Fortuyn was tagged for about 40 seats. He posthumously got 26 seats. That’s a very good result for any party participating for the first time. It also shows the people weren’t too keen on the existing party policies. Please remember that the party itself was nothing. There was one person who mattered, and he was murdered. It still got 26 seats.
I think something similar will happen again. I expect the PVV to get more than 30 seats during the national elections, possibly close to or just over 40 seats. A lot of people are not happy. In the voting booth nobody is watching. Nobody will really know who you have voted for. Yet…
Don’t forget the Wilders trial. This will have a major impact on the elections.
The judges may opt to find a technicality to cancel the trial. I expect them to go for that option. In that case, Mr. Moszkowicz will be like a shark in feeding frenzy mode. The court wanted to participate in national politics? Excellent. Now live with the consequences!
Right now there is a completely new ballgame. Nobody expected the cabinet to fold, least of all the prosecution, which is the court itself.
There is something else as well: right now all left-wing parties heavily promote themselves in Turkish, Moroccan, and other languages for votes. Wilders doesn’t have to do anything. Just telling the people something like “when you go to vote, be sure to bring a dictionary” will be more than enough. Lots of people who would vote otherwise for a left-wing party will almost certainly be put off if they see their city plastered with huge political posters in Turkish or Arabic.
Will Wilders become the next prime minister?
No. That is next to impossible. Too much is stacked against him. It is the custom the biggest party supplies the prime minister. But that is not a rule. Only Her Majesty the Queen has the right to assign that job to someone. And nobody can even question her on what she based her choice.
Supposing the PVV wins 50 seats, CDA 21, and VVD 20 (highly unlikely). The queen can ask Mr. Balkenende to form a cabinet. Or Mr. Rutte of the VVD, unlikely as it seems. All she has to do is to say she expects that Mr. Balkenende has the experience to form a cabinet, or that the VVD has more experience in forming a cabinet that Wilders and the PVV. After all, they are relative newcomers. The queen has made it crystal clear on many occasions that she doesn’t like Mr. Wilders or the PVV.
Need I say more?
As the old Chinese curse goes: may you live in interesting times! We most certainly do.