Four scientists will advise the informant: ‘Sometimes a minority cabinet will cheat’

The political spring recess this week is no reason for Kim Putters to keep the stalled formation on hold any longer. The new informant will receive four scientists on Monday with knowledge about forms of government and government. Given their academic careers, experts Claes de Vreese, Arco Timmermans, Mirko Noordegraaf and Mark Bovens can advise Putters on how he can navigate the different positions, wishes and concerns in the coming weeks, in particular the PVV, VVD, BBB and NSC.

Putters already spoke on Friday with Thom de Graaf (vice-president of the Council of State) and multiple former informant Herman Tjeenk Willink. What Putters discussed with both gentlemen has not been disclosed.

The SER chairman of PvdA House was appointed by the House of Representatives last Wednesday, after the previous information round failed with the resignation of NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt. During the debate about it, Omtzigt made it clear that his party did not want to participate in a right-wing majority cabinet for the time being. The question now is what role NSC wants to play. During the debate about it, he was in favor of a tolerating role for NSC, but he says he can also support an extra-parliamentary cabinet. VVD leader Dilan Yesilgöz argues more clearly for the latter variant.

There is no political consensus on the practical implementation of the two forms of government. This makes the assignment for Putters, which must be completed in four weeks, extra complicated.

The consultation on Monday with the four experts could provide guidance for the conversations that Putters wants to have with all party leaders in the House of Representatives from next week, and later more specifically with the party leaders who have been at the negotiating table since December.

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Danish People’s Party

Danish professor Claes de Vreese specializes in political communication and knows a lot about the Danish political model, where it is normal for minority cabinets to be at the helm. He has been a professor of political communication at the University of Amsterdam for almost twenty years and since 2021 also a faculty professor of Artificial Intelligence, Data and Democracy.

The Danish radical right People’s Party provided tolerating support to three minority coalitions between 2001-2010 and 2015-2019. That party presents itself, just like the PVV, as an outsider and anti-establishment. The difference is that the People’s Party is an “ordinary party with members and annual conferences”, according to De Vreese in an interview with NRC in 2010, when the first Rutte cabinet was established with the support of the PVV. Wilders’ party does not accept members and has no internal party democracy.

The Danish radical right People’s Party repeatedly provided tolerating support to three minority coalitions

According to De Vreese, what PVV, VVD and NSC can learn from the collaboration with the Danish People’s Party is that collaboration with the tolerating party is paramount when business needs to be done. The tolerating party, in turn, must be able to accept that the minority cabinet “occasionally cheats with another party,” according to De Vreese. Especially in areas where no connection can be found between the cabinet and its tolerating partner.

De Vreese is also concerned about the vulnerability of a majority cabinet consisting of four parties. The question is whether such a cabinet “will produce a stable coalition”, he warned in 2017 de Volkskrant, because a detailed coalition agreement makes individual profiling more complicated. In that light, a minority cabinet offers opportunities, according to De Vreese, provided it can be held together with a lot of dexterity.

‘No incantations’

According to Arco Timmermans, a “long and detailed coalition agreement” says nothing about the life cycle and duration of a cabinet. Until recently, he was professor of Public Affairs at Leiden University, where he focused, among other things, on the role of lobbyists in political decision-making. A condition for successful implementation of an agreement, he once wrote in a bundle about the disappearance of the king as director of the formation process, it is to avoid “general or cryptic incantations” as much as possible.

NSC leader Omtzigt has previously said that he also sees a business cabinet in which ministers are explicitly selected for specific knowledge and experience that relate to the department they lead. Mirko Noordegraaf, professor of public management at Utrecht University, has a lot of knowledge about The Hague’s administrative cultures. He is not a fan of a technocratic cabinet, he wrote in an opinion piece three years ago NRC. He previously called the idea that technocrats can achieve political successes “too simple” and “an illusion.” Last year, Noordegraaf was involved as a supervisor in the external investigation into reports of inappropriate behavior by former House Speaker Khadija Arib.

It is inevitable that the next government will have to get a grip on a range of complicated social problems (such as migration, social security, polarization, climate and nitrogen). The Scientific Council for Government Policy, of which Mark Bovens is a member, released a report on ‘grip’ as a political buzzword shortly after the elections. As far as he is concerned, the next cabinet must look broader “than just providing social security,” he said recently NRC. If that doesn’t work, he foresees that authoritarian leaders will be embraced even more.

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