Dutch Queen Beatrix's maneuver to keep Geert Wilders, the winner of the recent elections in the Netherlands, out of the government seems to have backfired. The Queen had pushed for a leftist coalition of the centrist Liberal Party, VVD, with Labour, the Greens and the Left-Liberals, but early last week the coalition negotiations between the VVD and the three leftist parties collapsed in disagreement over economic and welfare issues. The Dutch have now placed their hope in a "Danish-style" center-right minority government with the parliamentary support of Mr. Wilders's PVV party.
Last weekend, a poll indicated that 63% of the Dutch are in favor of a "Danish option." Only 20% favor the leftist government which the Queen initially wanted.
The Dutch Constitution grants the Queen the power to appoint a person (or persons) of her choice to initiate and direct negotiations for the formation of government coalitions. Queen Beatrix is known to dislike Geert Wilders, the winner of the general elections on June 9. These elections resulted in a clear victory for the right, with the VVD becoming the largest party, with 31 of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives, and the PVV, the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, emerging as the biggest winner with 24 seats, up from only 9 seats before the elections. Together with the Christian-Democrat CDA (21 seats), the VVD and the PVV can form a center-right coalition which would have 76 of the 150 seats. They can also count on the support of the small right-wing Protestant party SGP (2 seats).
The Queen's initial decision to push for a center-left coalition instead of a center-right one, has made her unpopular with a significant part of the Dutch population. The open criticism of Beatrix, along with polls indicating that in the event of new elections Wilders' PVV would become the biggest party, with 35 seats, has caused Queen Beatrix to suddenly double back. Following the collapse of the coalition talks for a center-left government, she appointed her close friend and advisor, the former Christian-Democrat Prime Minister (1982-1994) Ruud Lubbers, with the task of coordinating the coalition negotiations on her behalf.
At first, this looked like another royal option for the Left. Mr. Lubbers, who resigned as UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2001-2005) after accusations of sexual harassment, is a leftist Christian-Democrat. He is an outspoken critic of Mr. Wilders. Before the elections he publicly advised the CDA leadership not to consider governing with the PVV. After his appointment by the Queen, however, Mr. Lubbers made the surprising announcement that VVD, PVV and CDA had to open negotiations about a center-right coalition.
The Dutch media speculate that Mr. Lubbers, who is known to be a shrewd political operator, is secretly aiming for a collapse of such talks. This would then lead to a third round of coalition talks between VVD, CDA and Labor, resulting in a centrist coalition of these three traditional Dutch establishment parties. If Mr. Lubbers and the CDA can spin events in such a way that the blame for a failure to put together a center-right coalition can be laid on Mr. Wilders, the Dutch political establishment would be able to deny that the formation of a center-right coalition was thwarted by the Monarch and the Christian-Democrats.
Last Saturday, the Christian-Democrat parliamentarians followed Mr. Lubbers and unanimously approved a decision to allow their leader, Maxime Verhagen, to start "informal talks" with the VVD and the PVV. Most CDA politicians, mindful of Mr. Lubbers' earlier warning not to talk with the PVV, are skeptical about the chances of forming a government coalition with Mr. Wilders, whom they accuse of Islamophobia and populism.
The liberal VVD, however, is optimistic. VVD politicians point out that if a coalition with Mr. Wilders proves impossible, it might nevertheless be possible to form a minority coalition with the CDA, which, as Mr. Wilders has already hinted, might have the support of Wilders' PVV in Parliament. The Dutch media refer to this option for a center-right minority government as "the Danish option." Since 2001, Denmark has been governed by a center-right minority government of Conservatives and Liberals, which is supported by the Danish People's Party in Parliament, in exchange for strict immigration policies and opposition to Islamization of the country. In Denmark, this option has proved very successful. Mr. Wilders, who in the past years has often been to Denmark for talks with his friends of the DPP, is familiar with the "Danish option."
The "informal" talks between VVD, PVV and CDA began on Monday afternoon. If Mr. Wilders proves shrewd enough to outfox Mr. Lubbers, the Dutch might get a minority government of VVD and CDA, supported by the PVV. Many Dutch hope that this will be the case.
Among the voters of VVD, PVV and CDA the support for the "Danish option" is as high as 80%.