All questions about the rule of law have been answered correctly, but the PVV still received a failing grade from NSC. The question to informant Ronald Plasterk whether there is “a common baseline for safeguarding the Constitution” in a future cooperation between PVV, NSC, PVV and VVD can be answered with “yes”, according to his report presented on Monday. But for NSC “the rule of law distance remains too great” with the PVV to sit in a cabinet, Plasterk literally writes. This is in view of party leader Wilders’ statements in the past and that party’s election manifesto.
The fairly extensive report shows that during the discussion about the Constitution, the PVV has changed its opinion on almost all dubious points in its own program regarding the rule of law. But also that NSC does not believe that. At least not enough to dare to provide more than tolerable support. In fact, that “common baseline” exists three parties, not between four.
And NSC also notes that the constitutional questionnaire may have been completed properly, but that if ministers of the PVV soon take office, their “rule of law attitude and behavior” will also be of great importance. In other words, first see who will take office next. And then believe. For the time being, I’d rather keep my distance.
In the fridge
Checking off the constitutional checklist has therefore turned into a ‘normal’ political decision. After so many years of harsh criticism of Islam by Wilders, discriminatory statements and harsh disqualifications of judges, journalists and other opponents, can the NSC assume that this has been crossed out, put in the ‘fridge’ or otherwise forgotten? No matter how good the score on the joint rule of law principles is, it could not convince Omtzigt.
In the report, the four parties endorse in detail and dogmatically correct all principles that characterize the democratic constitutional state. They promise to adhere to the “Constitution, laws and treaties, European and international law and legal principles”. Articles 1 to 23 of the Constitution, which establish fundamental democratic rights, are called an ‘essential guarantee’. The four parties “will not make any proposals to amend these provisions.”
Fundamental social rights are also being promoted. Public health, public housing and social security “require special attention” because they “have been neglected for too long.”
The judiciary does not have to worry either. “Declarations are carried out and complied with.” Reference is also made to a desired “substantive assessment of fundamental rights and legal principles” of bills, without indicating how this will be done. In a separate constitutional court, or by the judiciary itself.
Freedom of religion
The report also shows that Wilders has abandoned all (administrative) anti-Islam ambitions. The four parties explicitly recognize that “all religions in the Netherlands fall under the freedom of religion.” Christianity and Islam are specifically mentioned – as is the freedom to criticize religion. Initiative bills that would conflict with the agreed ‘baseline’ are withdrawn.
At the beginning of last month, Geert Wilders withdrew three proposals that criminalized possession of the Koran, visiting an Islamic school or Islamic expressions such as the burqa or niqab. It is also promised not to submit similar proposals again.
Last week the PVV went one step further. MP Raymond de Roon withdrew without explanation a PVV proposal to introduce minimum sentences for murder and manslaughter. Geert Wilders did the same with a proposal to exclude persons with dual nationality from appointment or election to a number of public offices. And to deprive everyone with dual nationality of active voting rights.
‘Positive administrative climate’
Institutions that are important for the rule of law, such as ‘the judiciary, science and media’, are jointly embraced, the report now states. Concrete proposals to ‘strengthen and protect’ them can even be expected. NSC is operated separately with the ambition to strive for a “positive administrative climate”, in which transparency and high integrity standards apply. The institutions that “uphold the rule of law will be respected and protected.”
It is a checklist that is completely correct in terms of the rule of law, but has therefore not been able to convince one of the intended participants in a right-wing cabinet. Omtzigt has dipped one toe in the water and apparently completely changed the character of the PVV. But he leaves it at that for now.