Know your coalitions — Centre-left

In order to properly prepare you for what’s going to happen after the elections it’s time to talk about coalitions. Dutch parties and voters have been thinking about them from the start, and they are everyone’s number 2 priority (number 1 being “How do I get as many votes as possible?” or “Which party shall I vote for?”)

Today we close off with Centre-left.

When I started this series I assumed we’d get a centre-left coalition, and therefore I left this coalition to the last. In the mean time, however, I (and the country as a whole) have reconsidered, and Purple seems to be much more popular than centre-left.

The reason is simple: people are just tired of the CDA, and don’t want it in government any more. I’ll discuss this trend in a separate entry.

Meanwhile, let’s quickly look at the centre-left coalition. Despite all the CDA problems it’s still a moderately likely coalition, mostly because we could end up in a situation where there’s no other choice.

The centre-left coalition has been formed only once in Dutch political history, after the 1981 elections. The resulting Van Agt II government was not very succesful. It was more or less a forced marriage between PvdA and CDA, which back then were led by eternal antagonists Den Uyl and Van Agt. Van Agt had previously formed a coalition with the VVD, but its slight majority of 77 was changed to a 74-seat minority in the elections.

There were a lot of old and painful issues between the two, stretching back ten years, and part of the reason D66 was allowed into government was the hope that the Democrats would be able to moderate between the two enemies. Also, both PvdA and CDA had lost seats, while D66 was the big election winner.

Even before the formal installation of government there was already a row, and although it was mended it did not bode well for the government’s stability. Nine months later the CDA rejected a PvdA plan to deal with increasing unemployment, and when D66 turned out to support the CDA the PvdA resigned from government, causing new elections. The VVD was the big winner of those, and a renewed CDA+VVD coalition remained in power for the next seven years.

Thus the omens for centre-left are not very good.

In fact, centre-left would be a negative choice right now. PvdA and CDA are not very fond of each other, and D66 vastly prefers the Purple coalition so that it can once again kick the christian-democrats out of power. Besides, now that the VVD is (temporarily?) larger than the CDA, it doesn’t make sense to form a second-rate coalition. Finally, the CDA prefers a coalition with the VVD.

One possibility would be to swap GL in for D66. The Green-Lefts aren’t very fond of the CDA, either, but they’re so eager for government that this may not matter all that much. Conversely, the Democrats don’t have to prove themselves in government, and waging opposition against a government that includes both PvdA and CDA helps D66 immensely: they can capture centrist voters who’ve had enough of that government come the next elections.

So if centre-left becomes a reality, it might very well be with GL instead of D66.

Still, the “let’s kick the christian-democrats out” game is in full swing, and that makes any coalition with the CDA less likely.

So you should regard centre-left as a kind of an emergency procedure. If the country ends up with this government, it’s because all other options are impossible. That’s not a good omen for a stable government that sits out the full four years.

Series overview

This was the last entry in the Know your coalitions series. The previous ones are:

<— Small fry; 18 May | Rutte attacks CDA —>

This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.

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