Frans Weisglas is happy the cabinet has fallen and thinks the VVD and the Christian Democrats should now forget about the PVV and cooperate with the opposition. The economy and Dutch prestige abroad depend on it.
The cabinet Rutte-Verhage, propped up by Geert Wilders, has collapsed. I’m taking pleasure in writing these words as this ill-conceived construction was doomed from the start.
Wilders was always the puppet master. The coalition partners’ parliamentary majority depended on his support. At the same time, he remained an active leader of the opposition. His anti-Islam and anti-Europe rhetoric became increasingly embarrassing for the cabinet and damaged the image of the Netherlands in Europe and the world. Neither VVD nor CDA chose to speak out decisively against the comments of their troublesome partner and by remaining silent compromised their liberal and social-democratic principles.
I’m not sorry all this has come to an end. Once again Wilders has put himself and his party first. Those who know Wilders predicted it would end this way. Ever the puppet master, he started campaigning the minute he walked away from the Catshuis. At the same time, this cabinet crisis (the fourth in ten years!) is extremely damaging to the country. Other countries, and the financial markets and institutions regard the Netherlands as an instable factor in Europe. That constitutes a threat to our economy.
That is why it is vitally important that the collapse of the cabinet does not lead to political and economic paralysis over the coming weeks and months. We still have a sitting minority cabinet of CDA and VVD which will have to take decisive action in order to protect economic stability. Of course, a majority for each measure will have to be sought in various political quarters. If this is to have any chance of success, political parties like the PvdA will have to be prepared to forget about their short-term objectives and work constructively with the minority cabinet Rutte-Verhage. This will at least result in a solid budget for 2013. A combination of responsible cutbacks and long-term structural measures will mean the European objective – which the Netherlands championed as no other country– can be achieved.
Cooperation with the opposition parties is also important when the time comes to form a new cabinet after the elections. After the debacle of the last cabinet and the PVV’s performance over the last 18 months, CDA and VVD should no longer have any dealings with that party, either as a crutch or as part of a new cabinet. They have to concentrate on a cabinet without Wilders, even if his party wins.
Both VVD and CDA – but also the PvdA – chose badly during the last cabinet formation. It plunged the country into a damaging political wilderness which lasted 18 months. It’s time for a fresh start. And improving the position of the Netherlands and its prestige abroad must be among the first priorities to be tackled.
Frans Weisglas is a former chairman of parliament and a member of the VVD
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