Coalition talks enter next phase for a “programme-based” cabinet

Kim Putters explains his findings. Photo: Robin van Lonkhuijsen ANP

The PVV, VVD, NSC en BBB should now start talks on forming a “programme-based cabinet” in which they reach a deal on the main things they want to achieve, lead negotiator Kim Putters said on Thursday afternoon.

Once this has been done, a group of ministers and junior ministers should work out a coalition programme in more detail, stating how the targets should be reached, Putters said. It would also, he said, be beneficial if around half the ministers had political experience and the rest were outsiders.

Such a cabinet, he said, would do justice to the election results and could boost trust in the political process in society at large. Neither a majority cabinet nor a minority cabinet are an option in the current situation.

Between them, the four parties have 88 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. On Wednesday, Geert Wilders, leader of the far right PVV, said he would not be prime minister because he did not have the support of all of the potential coalition partners.

As yet is is unclear who could be prime minister, but all four party leaders have agreed to remain in the lower house of parliament. In addition, all four, Putters said, would do well to keep their posts on social media to a minimum.

NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt said in a reaction that he welcomes the idea of an agreement that focuses on the main issues, but that the finances should be properly sorted out as well. The VVD’s Dilan Yesilgöz said her party was ready to take responsibility.

Despite the agreement, opposition parties were sceptical about the idea of a “programme based” cabinet and commentators too have questioned the concept.

CDA leader Henri Bontenbal said he was pleased progress is being made, but said he considered a “programme cabinet” to be the same as one in which the ruling parties have a majority. “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck,” he said.

GroenLinks-PvdA and Volt focused their criticism on the VVD and NSC, both of which had said they would not be in a majority cabinet with Wilders. “Programme cabinet is a language trick to normalize the radical right-wing PVV,” Volt leader Laurens Dassen said.

MPs will debate Putters’ report next Wednesday, at which point it will be decided who should lead the next round of talks.

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