The video below constitutes “inside baseball” from Dutch politics, to some extent. It shows Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) speaking in Parliament about the fact that he and his party have been shut out from negotiations concerning the formation of a new government, which have been going on since the elections on March 15. In other words, the cordon sanitaire around the PVV is still in place.
You can also see the usual parliamentary ankle-biters pestering Mr. Wilders with their niggling questions.
In the video, the word informateur is subtitled as “informant” or “informer”. Normally this word would not be translated, but left in the original (which is French, anyway), since the English parliamentary system never produced a position with a comparable function.
Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan gave us a brief overview of the informateur’s function back in January:
Tradition says that the winner of the elections can appoint an informateur (inquirer), or, if the polls are very tight or negotiations are expected to be difficult, a pre-informateur (pre-inquirer). Not that long ago this was a royal prerogative. The queen could appoint anyone she wanted, and didn’t have to explain why. A few years ago this royal prerogative was taken away and given to Parliament.
So, the chair will appoint someone to consult all parties, write down with whom they want to govern, with whom they don’t, and under what conditions. This takes a couple of days, and he reports back to the chair. Based on the results, further consultation will take place, until it’s reasonably certain a cabinet can be formed. Then the informateur becomes formateur: he will form a cabinet and become its leader as prime minister. It’s customary to appoint an elderly statesmen or politician to do this inquiring. When the negotiations are nearly finished, a new informateur will be appointed, who will be asked to become formateur. The whole circus can be over in a fortnight, but it can also take a full year. There is no time limit. In Belgium the record is 2.5 years.
Here’s Geert Wilders talking about the informateur and the boycott of the PVV, all the while parrying the ankle-biters: