Cabinet formation leader: "Discomfort" in politics, but crisis demands action

THE HAGUE - The informateur appointed to take a fresh assessment and consult on a way forward with the Cabinet formation process in the Netherlands said that he was perturbed by the state of politics in the country. What is certain, Herman Tjeenk Willink said, is that the policy guiding the coronavirus crisis must also be linked with the social and economic recovery. The caretaker Cabinet as it stands does not have the "political clout" needed to move forward with a long-term strategy.

Mark Rutte's third Cabinet stepped down earlier this year after a report criticized its handling of the years-long childcare benefits scandal that showed tax authorities used profiling algorithms to falsely label thousands of parents as scam artists trying to defraud the government.  While strong election results for the VVD, led by Rutte, and D66, led by Sigrid Kaag, made it seem like a new Cabinet might form quickly. Two different scandals derailed the process with the caretaker Cabinet embroiled for weeks in controversy about its handling of critical Parliamentarians in the present, but also two years ago.

Tjeenk Willink wrapped up his three-week appointment as informateur on Friday with a report about his ongoing talks with the leaders of the 17 parties in the lower house. "However, those conversations failed to ease a feeling of discomfort in me. Discomfort about the consequences of exhaustive parliamentary debates about broken trust in The Hague, and for the confidence of voters who cast their votes in the hope that government would be able to get out of the crises quickly," he wrote.

Tjeenk Willink observed that "trust and moderation have given way to mistrust and escalation."

As it stands, the far-right PVV, the left wing parties SP and BIJ1 have said they will not form a coalition with the VVD if Rutte leads the party. The left wing PvdD and Denk, as well as right wing BBB have also said it is unlikely they would work with him. A majority of parties said they would not work with either the PVV their colleagues on the far right, FvD. Many parties also rejected working with FvD offshoot Ja21.

He also concluded that there were two dichotomous issues facing the Cabinet formation moving forward which will need to be addressed by the person selected to replace him with the next step of the process. The first is that an exhaustive coalition agreement between parties makes it harder for members of those parties in another branch of government to express criticism. However, he acknowledged that, "Long negotiations are also a means to dispel mistrust." 

Tjeenk Willink showed optimism though at the unanimous support given by Tweede Kamer members towards a motion submitted by GroenLinks and Labour to ensure that the citizenry has a stronger legal standing, and that government policies from subsequent Cabinet's are monitored for their impact at an individual level.

"But only with a strong democratic legal order can fundamental problems be tackled effectively, crises dealt with and citizens and government trust each other," he wrote. 




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