Netherlands 2017 open thread

I hope to have something to say about the recent election in the Netherlands. But so far have not. But maybe you do. Here is your chance!

We can talk about the election result itself, or the coalition negotiations, which should be pretty interesting.

(Part of the reason for not having a post yet is that I made this election one of the themes for my students’ final exam earlier this week. And now that means exams and papers must be graded, grades assigned, etc.)

50 thoughts on “Netherlands 2017 open thread

  1. This comment is by Rob (moved from a different thread).

    Opponents of PR use the Dutch system as an excuse to stick with FPTP because nobody votes for a coalition, the long lengthy talks that takes months, and the Labor Party suffered a massive defeat going in with government with the Liberal VVD, and compromising to the point that it lost it’s identity and distinctiveness in government, seems that the tail wagging the door doesn’t apply here with small parties holding larger parties ransom.

  2. The vote loss of the Social Democrats was particularly striking and I did an analysis with the ParlGov data. It is indeed a particlulary bad election results in comparative perspective.

    The German Social Democrats had similiar losses when they where the junior partner in the 2005 Merkel I cabinet. I wondered if we have a good understanding how the “cost of ruling” in parliamentary democracies are distributed among coalition partners. In Western Europe, the radical right regularly suffered large electoral losses when the took part in coaliton cabinets. What are the general patterns across different party types?

    • The Dutch Labour party lost 77% of its vote share, the German SPD lost only about a third in 2009. I can think of few comparable collapses. Greece’s PASOK lost just shy of 70% in 2012a; Spain’s UCD lost 80% in 1982.

      • Kadima’s loss of just over 90% of its vote is another example, but of course that was a far younger and less institutionalised party.

    • The Progressive Conservatives in Canada went went from 154 to 2 in 1993, yet another persuasive example of the stabilising effect of single member districts.

    • Thanks, Holger. There certainly is a literature on costs of ruling for coalition partners, but I don’t know that there is a clear consensus from there yet (it is not a lit I know intimately).

    • Bancki, this is an unusual approach, but my attempt to email you using the address in your comment form, has failed. I want to follow up regarding an earlier comment of yours that I just re-read and find interesting. So please contact me (privately) if you see this.

  3. Who will form the next government? Can one be form with such a fragmented parliament? Will it go the full term like the previous government did?

  4. The VVD+CDA+D66+GL coalition possibility that has been explored since the process of government formation began 62 days ago, has today been abandoned over disagreements over asylum policy. It seems highly likely that VVD+CDA+D66+CU will be the next option to be explored.

    • It seems to me that one coalition formation at a time is attempted. Do they still appoint formateurs (spelling?) to do that formally?

      More importantly, after seeing the BJP and the INC “race” to get enough votes to go to the (governor’s) palace after the recent elections in Goa, is there any are reason why multipl parties cannot conduct mulilaterial coalitions until someone or some group is ready to come forward and say they have a majority ready to be tested (or invested as the case might be)?

      • A formateur will be appointed once party membership in the government is settled, leaving only the issue of nominating ministers to the monarch. An INformateur presides over the negotiations and expected to function as a mostly impartial ‘honest broker’. The informateur is appointed, and reports back to, the lower house (formerly: the monarch). The current informateur is a VVD minister in the outgoing government.

    • D66 suggested a coalition with VVD+CDA+D66 plus SP and/or PvdA. Both of the latter parties declined. Informateur Schippers reports that VVD+CDA+D66+CU is the only remaining (majority) option she sees as having a chance of success, effectively saying D66 should swallow its pride and enter negotiations for that coalition variant,

  5. Week 13. A new informateur was appointed about a week ago – a Labour party political veteran (most recently he was head of the Council of State) who has played the same role in a number of previous government formations. He’s getting the original quartet (VVD+CDA+D66+GL) to talk again.

  6. Week 14. VVD+CDA+D66+GL have done a lot of talking over the past week, but it was no use. The Dutch public broadcaster reports that the debate about the formation in parliament yesterday suggests the talks between the four parties are now “definitively” at an end.

      • So far we’ve only had one (last time, which was relatively fast at about 8 weeks), so it’s too soon to say. But so far, this formation is still quite far from being among the longest-lasting formations ever, so formations with royal involvement could take just as long as this one is taking (at times, even longer).

      • According to the media, 90 days is the average, and we’ve just surpassed that. The record, though, was over 200 days. There remain other options that have not been formally discussed as different parties rejected those options. The Animal Rights party also has just enough seats for a majority with the main three parties of the formation (VVD+CDA+D66), but I have not heard anyone even mention that possibility, so I assume it’s not taken seriously. Then there’s always the possibility of minority govt, which everyone wants to avoid, but it is possible. I’m personally starting to think it’s becoming likely. There certainly has been no talk of new elections – I assume we will have to hit the 200-day mark before anyone mentions that possibility.

  7. Week 15 1/2. VVD, CDA, D66, CU leaders have done a bit of preliminary talking. Tjeenk Willink has resigned as informateur because he “doesn’t feel he’s the right person to oversee the coming round of talks”. Former finance minister Gerrit Zalm has tentatively been designated as his successor.

  8. Doe someone keeps a list of longest government formations? If I would put one on the net (e.g. on wikipeida) it would look like this (all > 100 days):

    country elections formed days prime minister remarks
    Lebanon 11-11-2006* 11-7-2008 608 Siniora II (if counted from exit Shia minister from Siniora I cabinet)
    Belgium 13-6-2010 6-12-2011 541 Di Rupo
    Bosnia 3-10-2010 12-1-2012 466 Bevanda
    Zimbabwe 29-3-2008 15-2-2009 323 Tsvangirai
    Lebanon 22-3-2013* 5-2-2014 320 Salam (counted from end Mikati II cabinet)
    Spain 21-12-2015* 4-11-2016 319 Rajoy II (with repeat elections on 26-06-2016)
    Iraq 7-3-2010 22-12-2010 290 al-Maliki II
    Lebanon 24-11-2007* 11-7-2008 230 Siniora II (if counted from resignation Siniora I cabinet as a consequence of end of term of president Lahoud)
    Czech Rep. 3-6-2006 9-1-2007 220 Topolánek II (if Topolánek I cabinet (4-9-2006) is disregarded as it lost confidence on 3-10-2006)
    Netherlands 25-5-1977 19-12-1977 208 Van Agt I
    Belgium 10-6-2007 21-12-2007 194 Verhofstadt III
    Morocco 7-10-2016 5-4-2017 180 (El) Othmani
    Bosnia 12-10-2014 31-3-2015 170 Zvizdić
    Macedonia 11-12-2016 31-5-2017* 171 Zaev (check date, 31-05-2017 is when parliament granted confidence)
    Netherlands 29-11-1972 11-5-1973 163 Den Uyl
    Iraq 15-12-2005 20-5-2006 156 al-Maliki I
    Lebanon 7-6-2009 9-11-2009 155 Saad Hariri I (counted from elections)
    Lebanon 12-1-2011* 13-6-2011 152 Mikati II (counted from exit ‘March 8’ ministers from Saad Hariri I cabinet)
    Belgium 13-12-1987 9-5-1988 148 Martens VIII
    Belgium 25-5-2014 11-10-2014 139 Michel
    Austria 18-11-1962 27-3-1963 129 Gorbach II
    Netherlands 9-6-2010 14-10-2010 127 Rutte I
    Netherlands 22-1-2003 27-5-2003 125 Balkenende II
    Austria 3-10-1999 4-2-2000 124 Schüssel
    Netherlands 13-6-1956 13-10-1956 122 Drees IV
    Iceland 10-10-1946* 4-2-1947 117 Stefánsson (counted from end Thors Iib cabinet, elections 30-06-1946)
    Kenya 27-12-2007 17-4-2008 112 Odinga
    Netherlands 3-5-1994 22-8-1994 111 Kok I
    Netherlands 26-5-1981 11-9-1981 108 Van Agt II
    Netherlands 15-3-2017 ??? ??? ??? (already 108 days on 1-07-2017)
    Belgium 17-12-1978 3-4-1979 107 Martens I
    Belgium 24-11-1991 7-3-1992 104 Dehaene I
    Austria 1-10-2006 11-1-2007 102 Gusenbauer

    • Bancki, thank you for this list. I’m not sure if I would include Bosnia – do they have cabinet responsibility? I thought the tripartite executive was directly elected and independent of the assembly, but perhaps they appoint a responsible cabinet. I definitely wouldn’t include Zimbabwe, since that was an ad hoc power-sharing deal rather than a constitutionally authorised situation with actual cabinet responsibility.

  9. OK Zimbabwe is debatable (and Kenya for the same reason) but Bosnai is parliamentary
    art. V.4. Council of Ministers.
    The Presidency shall nominate the Chair of the Council of Ministers, who shall take office upon the approval of the House of Representatives. The Chair shall nominate a Foreign Minister, a Minister for Foreign Trade, and other Ministers as may be appropriate, who shall take office upon the approval of the House of Representatives.
    a. Together the Chair and the Ministers shall constitute the Council of Ministers, with responsibility for carrying out the policies and decisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the fields referred to in Article III(1), (4), and (5) and reporting to the Parliamentary Assembly (including, at least annually, on expenditures by Bosnia and Herzegovina).
    b. No more than two-thirds of all Ministers may be appointed from the territory of the Federation. The Chair shall also nominate Deputy Ministers (who shall not be of the same constituent people as their Ministers), who shall take office upon the approval of the House of Representatives.
    c. The Council of Ministers shall resign if at any time there is a vote of no-confidence by the Parliamentary Assembly.

      • Plural semipresidential?

        The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall consist of three Members: one Bosniac and one Croat, each directly elected from the territory of the Federation, and one Serb directly elected from the territory of the Republika Srpska.

  10. We’ve hit the 180-day mark, and the record (208 days – reached in 1977) is not far away. Talks between VVD, CDA, D66, & CU still ongoing.

  11. The end of government formation looks near, according to the NOS (the Dutch public broadcaster), as the Central Planning Bureau has begun calculating the effects of much of the draft agreement between the parties, which should take about 5 days. A few issues have not quite yet been agreed, but various negotiators have told the press that much progress has been made in the past few weeks. Looks like another few weeks til the government is formed.

  12. Not having much experience in how these things work, how does it take so long to negotiate coalitions? Do they need to agree on every little detail of cabinet composition, budgeting formulae, and legislative agendas in advance?

    • This post from the Irish Politics Forum cites an article, “The duration of government formation processes in Europe” Alejandro Ecker and Thomas M. Meyer (2015). The Netherlands is at the extreme upper end for European countries with 90 days. We probably know why France, Britain and Greece are at the other end at 5 and below.

      But what is Denmark doing down there with 4 days? You’d expect Danish government formations to take as long as Dutch government formations.

    • Mark, my understanding is that yes, Dutch parties feel like they need to determine such things in advance and in quite a bit of detail or risk misunderstandings and potential instability, though following some relatively successful attempts to do this differently at the local level, things may be changing towards the more flexible type of arrangement – though I don’t know to what extent that would mean shorter negotiation times. NB: cabinet composition isn’t on the agenda yet – not until the “information” stage is over and a government program has been hammered out, at which point a “formateur” is appointed to actually “form” the cabinet.

  13. Negotiations are finally winding down between VVD, CDA, D66, and CU; a draft government program is to be submitted to the parliamentary parties on Monday, on which day the old govt-formation record of 208 days will be met.

  14. Day 209: the government program has been submitted to the parliamentary parties, signed and presented. Mark Rutte will be appointed as Formateur (presumably by the Chamber) on Thursday to oversee the choice of ministers, who will presumably be appointed and sworn in by the King early next week. What is already known about that is that the party leaders of CDA, D66, and CU will not become ministers but instead remain leaders of their party in the lower house (in the Netherlands, MPs appointed as ministers must give up their seat in parliament) – adding to the growing convention that if a party joins a government but does not provide the PM, its leader does not become a minister, just as Labour (PvdA) did in the last cabinet and before that the VVD a number of times.

      • So it would be as if the Democrats had nominated Norman Mineta to be Bush’s Transportation Secretary in 2001, but with Nancy Pelosi herself renaming in the House; or if the GOP had put forward Ray LaHood for the same position (Why that position? It’s fine to let The Forces Of Evil across the aisle run Amtrak?) with Mitch McConnell keeping his seat in the Senate.

        As a diligent Chugartista, I’m interested in how much control a party (its caucus and/or its machine) would exercise over its nominal representative in such cases. I suppose a Dutch minority party would enjoy a sanction that a US minority lacks: it can force the Cabinet out mid-term by withdrawing its support in the legislature. Whereas even if, arguendo, Mineta and LaHood (and Gates and Jeane Kirkpatrick) had been nominated by their own parties, once appointed they answer only to the President. A Swiss Federal Councillor who “goes rogue” is not sackable by either the head of state, or the legislature, or their original party during their term

        US politicians have to resign any elected office to take up executive positions in the Cabinet or Administration. Of course this includes Congress, but in practice many Cabinet Secretaries (eg, Bill Richardson, George Romney), Ambassadors (Nikki Haley) were previously State Governors until they were tapped. So (1) changing to a more Westminster-like system wouldn’t fix this, because while many systems allow Cabinet members to keep their seats in the national legislature (either “actively,” as in Britain, Canada, India, etc, or “passively,” as in France or Sweden where a former Minister has the right to demand their seat back from their designated substitute/ alternate), I can’t imagine any system that would allow a national Cabinet member to moonlight simultaneously as a regional governor. Some legislators at one level do moonlight as mayors of cities, towns or shires at a lower level, but (i) local government is less demanding than state/ provincial * or national government; (ii) it is one thing for your Mayor to double as a backbench MP, but combining two _executive_ positions, Mayor and Cabinet member, may be a bridge too far; and (iii) the trend seems to towards banning office-holding at two levels.

      • * I count Scotland and Wales as “provinces”, even though they don’t officially use the title, because (i) they are both sub-national governments with a good deal of autonomy granted by national statute but not guaranteed by an entrenched national constitution, and (ii) Northern Ireland is legally classed as a “province”, so by parity of reasoning these other two former nations can be considered of equal status.
        (But then Wales is considered a “Principality”.)
        (But then “the Prince of Wales” has no governmental powers over the Welsh Ministers or Assembly, not even ceremonial or reserve powers).
        (But then Scotland is… what? The Kingdom Formerly Known As?)
        (How on earth can the British polity possibly function without consistent stipulative terminology?)
        This makes Puerto Rico, Nunavut and the ACT/ NT “provinces” as well, although in the Canadian case this would jar with everyday usage. Canada’s terminology seems to be driven by no guiding principle other than “Don’t Copy America”, hence 1867 saw the “Confederation” (subtext: looser than common or garden “federation”) of several “provinces” (subtext: more tightly centralised than a common or garden “federation”). I’m still mildly surprised the Canadian framers chose “Senate” instead of “Chamber of Notables” or something else that could not possibly be confused with the elephant to the south.

      • I rather like ‘substate’ which I think I first saw on the dreaded Wikipedia. In an ostensibly Dutch thread we should note the division of the Netherlands into provinces, some of which once were substates of the United Provinces. Argentina and South Africa use province for their substates.

      • Tom

        In PNG the representative of each provincial electorate (also known as open electorates) serves ex officio as the provincial governor and is eligible for the cabinet. The South Pacific can be an original place.

      • Alan, you’re quite right. Russia, too. Although in those cases it’s compulsory or ex officio. making it voluntary to serve in the national Cabinet while governing a region or province still seems rare. Germany, maybe?

      • The formal term in the UK is ‘constituent countries’. Some constituent countries have autonomy, some do not. I don’t know that ‘Province’ or ‘Principality’ has any legal significance there.

        I don’t like ‘substates’ for federations and confederations. The provinces making up the United Provinces were certainly not subordinate to the Generality (Generality was to the United Provinces what Commonwealth is to Australia and Union is to India). If anything, the United Provinces were a superstate. That analysis is certainly much less applicable to South Africa, where the center predated and indeed created the units, but Argentina was created by its units, being a confederation before it became federal. But in both countries, the unit governments are subordinate to the federal government in some things, but not in others – a very rudimentary definition of federalism, as opposed to a unitary state where the units are subordinate to the central government in all things, even if they have autonomy (autonomy granted and removable by said central govt), and therefore may appropriately be called SUBunits, whereas in a confederation the central authority is essentially merely an assembly, an aggregation, of the units’ governments and therefore in a very real sense subordinate to the units or member states, which themselves are rarely in any meaningful sense subordinate to the confederation. Again, these are very simplified definitions. But they summarise why I prefer ‘federal unit’ for members of a federation (for a confederation, I suppose ‘member state’).

      • JD

        There is just not really a good word. I have problems with ‘federal unit’ because it sounds like a unit within a federal bureaucracy. Australia, for instance, has a National Integrity of Sport Unit within the Federal Department of Health.

        I accept ‘substate’ has ambiguities, because ‘sub’ sometimes, but not always, denotes subordination, but at least it is devoid of other connotations, even if the denotation is imprecise.

      • The OECD uses SCG for ‘subcentral governmemt’ but that, apart from being clumsy, has the same problem as ‘substate’. It is so tempting to be provincial or subjective trying to state a unitary name for the entities that constitute a federation.

        I could not quite get ‘canton’ into that last sentence. I did try.

  15. Pingback: Bargaining failures in presidential and parliamentary systems | Fruits and Votes

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