The formation will be more open and transparent this time. According to the parties that were not formed, little has been achieved.
Radio silence is part of every cabinet formation. So far, there is nothing strange in the very brief press moments of Geert Wilders, Dylan Yeseljos, Peter Omtzigt and Caroline van der Plas, who do not want to reveal anything about the course of their conversations. The other parties in the House of Representatives understand this.
However, there is growing anger among non-constituted parties over the provision of information to the House of Representatives. Sometimes this is in small matters, such as the lack of clarity about the duration of this stage in formation. Six weeks will be the maximum period. But instead of “end of January, beginning of February,” the first report to the House appears to have been postponed to “before spring break” (see box).
According to Esther Uehand, leader of the Party for the Animals, skepticism about smaller issues lies partly because of the lack of information provided about the main issue in the making – the rule of law. Ouwehand has already twice requested an additional letter from informant Plasterk, along with GroenLinks-PvdA and Volt. As a Member of Parliament since 2006, Owehand is currently one of the House of Representatives’ incumbents.
Debates about constitution should not be confused with content
She is concerned about the tone and content of the informant’s answers. “My concerns about the rule of law continue to grow. The first time we did not get an answer to our polite questions. Not again now.”
According to her, Plasterk refuses to answer the question of whether discussions on the rule of law have ended before discussing other topics “it is as agreed.” The left-wing parties received a second rather sharp letter from Plasterk, who stated that his first short note had been clear enough. The informant concludes by saying: “Now that I am asked the same question again, this remains my answer.”
Order in the negotiations has been a problem since the beginning of the formation. The ‘reduction’ was agreed upon: the first debates on the constitution and the rule of law. Substantive topics – such as migration, livelihoods and safety – will not be discussed until this chapter has been satisfactorily completed. This is stated in the House of Representatives’ instructions to the informant. These two discussions should not be allowed to intertwine, this is what almost all parties said at the beginning of the formation, from the left to the Socialist Alternative Party.
Timmermans fears that the NSC, BBB and VVD are being tampered with somewhere
Peter Omtsigt (National Security Council) also told the House categorically several times that he also finds the cut “significant.” He said in December that he would “do everything I can” to ensure there is a “longer report” on fundamental rights at the end of this round.
For GroenLinks-PvdA faction leader Frans Timmermans, this promise was not enough. He also wanted there to be a separate interim discussion with the House of Representatives once an agreement on the constitution was reached, before this round of substantive discussions continued. Timmermans feared that the NSC, BBB and VVD were being “corrupted” somewhere. But the formed parties did not consider an interim discussion necessary. It was not included in the instructions to the informant.
Almost all opposition parties now have the impression that the formation is already well underway. GroenLinks-PvdA suspects that the rule of law section has already been completed, with discussions already taking place with financial experts at the formation table. However, the faction knows nothing about the “downgrade” and whether it has been implemented.
Plasterk does not answer the cut
This is also what worries Owehand: “The main sore point in this composition remains that Plasterk does not answer whether or not a break has been made between the rule of law and substantive debates. Or whether these topics have become intertwined. This is a bad sign and only leads to “to heighten concerns about the rule of law.”
D66 leader Rob Gitten already expressed the same concerns in December. The faction anticipates trouble if Detective Blasterk does not commit to the mission at this point, as the final report is crucial. Cetin said in the House of Representatives that he feared that the formation was “on a slippery path in which basic rights and freedoms could be replaced by other issues.” Cetin warned that the informant must provide extensive information about these conversations.
The right-wing faction Ja21 also attaches importance to the agreed-upon arrangement of “discussing the rule of law first, then the content.” Party leader Joost Eerdmans says, “The formed parties have committed to this.” This reduction is important.” Although Eerdmans also stresses that he has a good feeling about the formation because of the issues now on the table.
Notifications until February
Omtzigt must now at least indicate whether or not there is an agreement on the rule of law, according to GroenLinks-PvdA.
Umtzigt can expect to be reminded often by other factions of how he once advocated maximum openness and attention to the constitution. However, he does not believe that interim reports on rule of law discussions are necessary in formation. “There is no country in the world where so much is reported about formation as in the Netherlands.” He reminded journalists this week that there is a discussion after every formation stage. This is a break with the past.
When the media asked him whether the “first part” on the rule of law had been completed, he responded defensively. No announcements will be made until February. “But when we say we’re continuing to work, people really understand what we’re doing.”
First parliamentary debate in mid-February
More information about the progress in forming the government will become clear no later than the week of February 12. The first report is then issued by Detective Ronald Plasterk. It is the moment when the four parties make clear whether they are ready to form a coalition together, and in what form. The new social contract must make a final decision on whether guarantees of the rule of law are adequate.
Detective Blastark expects to have this discussion before spring break, which begins Friday, February 16. Plasterk said this week that things are sometimes difficult at the formation table between the PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB, which is a “good sign”. According to him, the parties would like to reach an agreement with the four of them. “But that doesn’t mean it will work.”
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