The criticism about the reconnaissance debacle is far from silenced, but the possible government parties D66, CDA, PvdA and GroenLinks are not yet ruling out a new cabinet with Rutte, according to a tour of the Binnenhof.
Although the party leaders are walking on eggshells when answering the question of whether they see VVD leader Mark Rutte return as prime minister after his falsehoods about the position of CDA MP Pieter Omtzigt, a much milder picture is now emerging than last week. . After a widely supported motion of censure last Thursday, Rutte’s days seemed to be numbered. Coalition parties D66 and CDA expressly expressed the hope that Rutte would draw his own conclusions and step down. Even the VVD thought that things could go wrong for Rutte.
But in the meantime, that fear has been replaced by hope. Rutte is not going anywhere at all, the party already made clear this weekend. After a true media offensive by VVD prominent figures, the party formed a wall of defense around the man who has been prime minister on behalf of the liberals for ten years. Rutte reinforced his words on Tuesday by repeating during the inserted parliamentary debate that he will continue anyway, if necessary in the opposition.
Earlier that day it became clear that various parties have opened the door again for Rutte. This feeds the hope that trust between VVD leader Rutte and the House can be restored. That hope is certainly not in vain, although it takes a lot of time to restore the mutual relationships. As far as the House of Representatives is concerned, it is now up to the new informateur Herman Tjeenk Willink to get the formation going. He will be given three weeks to investigate which government coalition is the most promising, and especially three weeks to calm things down.
All parties need that time, say those involved. It is now up to Rutte to propose how he wants to bridge the ‘trust gap’. Behind the scenes you can even literally hear that D66 is not in advance against Rutte as prime minister in a new cabinet. ‘Otherwise we would have supported a vote of no confidence,’ says a party leader.
Even at PvdA and GroenLinks, the door is not yet fully locked to work with Rutte again, despite the vote of no confidence that both parties supported last Thursday. The two left-wing parties still have no confidence in the current Prime Minister Rutte, but they do not rule out the possibility that the VVD leader has a future role. Let him come up with ideas on how to restore trust and how far he is willing to move towards the progressive parties can be heard in the corridors.
At the VVD, they draw hope from the fact that the two left-wing parties on Tuesday did not opt for the nuclear option of the ChristenUnie and the SP, which explicitly said this weekend that they did not want to continue with Rutte. The liberals have few more options than to focus their hopes on PvdA and GroenLinks. A monster coalition of seven parties (without the VVD) is nobody’s favorite.
Lots of bumps
There are still many hurdles to overcome before it gets that far. The pain about Rutte’s attempt to offer the critical CDA MP a ‘position elsewhere’ is still too fresh and too great. At the same time, the biggest stumbling block of the Rutte-IV cabinet may not even seem to be Rutte himself, but rather the man with whom this riot all started: Pieter Omtzigt.
Even if the CDA is ready to rule with the VVD out of national interest, is it even possible that Omtzigt will ever sign a coalition agreement with Rutte? Omtzigt has argued in recent months that the Rutte cabinet lied to him for years. For the time being he is sick at home and the party leadership does not know exactly where he stands.
The VVD can derive some hope from the course of events in recent days. Everything becomes liquid under pressure, is a well-known Hague mantra. Even outgoing Prime Minister Rutte, who skimmed the edge of the abyss last week, seems to be recovering.