Green Left weighs pros and cons of joining new Dutch coalition

Rutte’s Liberals seek support of fourth party to secure majority government

  GreenLeft leader Jesse Klaver arriving for  meeting with health minister Edith Schippers for talks on coalition on Monday. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/EPA

GreenLeft leader Jesse Klaver arriving for meeting with health minister Edith Schippers for talks on coalition on Monday. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/EPA

 

If triumphant young GreenLeft leader Jesse Klaver is tempted to lead his party – which rocketed from four to 14 seats in last week’s election – into coalition with Mark Rutte’s Liberals, he’d do well to ponder what happened to Labour in 2012, and to the Christian Democrats before them.

Last week, the Liberals won 33 of the 150 seats in parliament, leaving them 13 clear of their nearest rivals, Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party, and Rutte is now on the verge of forming his third cabinet in a row despite the global financial crisis, the euro crisis, austerity, and the migration crisis.

With the Liberals dominant and the Freedom Party in second place, Rutte’s natural allies in a new coalition are the Christian Democrats – with whom he formed a minority government in 2010, supported by Wilders – and centre-left D66, the two coming home joint third on 19 seats each.

Between them they have just 71 seats, however, five short of an overall majority. And since the electorate had voted for stability, Rutte said as he arrived back at work on Monday, his aim was to build a solid four-party coalition, ideally with a majority in both houses of parliament.

As if to underline that nothing had changed now that campaigning is over, Rutte repeated that he would not be doing business with Wilders – ruling the Freedom Party out of a coalition despite its 20 seats.

That, he said, left four possibilities as the fourth party of coalition: GreenLeft or the Socialists, with 14 seats each; Labour, his junior coalition partners from 2012, with its lowest-ever nine seats; or Christian Union, an orthodox Protestant party that won five seats.

Uncomfortable

Although it is right of centre like the Liberals, the problem is that Christian Union opposes euthanasia and abortion and is uncomfortable with homosexuality and gay marriage, any one of which could become a political hostage to fortune in the socially liberal Netherlands.

The problem with the Socialists is that they’re a million miles away from the Liberals and Christian Democrats on the issue that matters, the economy.

And as for the Christian Democrats and Labour, they’ve been here before, of course.

Fresh from the collapse of Jan-Pieter Balkenende’s government, the Christian Democrats clambered aboard a minority coalition with the Liberals in 2010, with informal support from the Freedom Party – until Wilders pulled the plug and Rutte unceremoniously replaced them with Labour.

That was 2012, Labour’s golden year. It took 38 seats to the Liberals’ 41, quickly forming a two-party government with Rutte – whose austerity programme led four years later to the resignation of Labour’s bright young leader, Diederik Samsom, and to the virtual obliteration of its electoral base.

That’s why Labour lost 29 seats in last Wednesday’s “bloodbath”, and why its defiant chairman, Hans Spekman, agreed on Saturday to step down in October, rather than face an immediate motion of no confidence tabled by badly bruised party members.

That leaves GreenLeft and its 30-year-old leader, Jesse Klaver, the clever, charismatic tousle-haired Justin Trudeau lookalike whose supporters refer to him adoringly as “the Jessiah”.

Having replaced Labour as the largest party of the left, he should arguably use his 14 seats to build GreenLeft into a sustainable progressive contender for government in future elections – a real challenger for Rutte and the centre right.

On the other hand, his supporters are eager to become “a party of government”. Their time has come, they argue, and Klaver deserves it.

They’re right, of course – and Rutte is waiting.

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