D66 leader Kaag criticizes Rutte in annual lecture
D66 leader Sigrid Kaag gave the annual H.J. Schoo-lecture on Monday evening, in which she expressed her displeasure the formation process stalling over right-wing unwillingness to work with left-wing parties. Without explicitly naming him, she criticized caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the VVD, NOS reports.
"Leadership to me is the opposite of hustling and bustling without vision," Kaag said, referring to a statement by Rutte a few years ago that vision is like the elephant that obstructs the view. Kaag also quoted a top official who asked himself whether the Dutch government achieved anything noteworthy in the past twenty years. "And as much as he would like to be wrong, he couldn't come up with anything. Neither did I. No matter how long I thought about it," Kaag said.
Under Rutte's leadership, a shadow fell on the Netherlands, Kaag said, mentioning the childcare allowance scandal and the not-always-clear coronavirus policy as examples. "We have to learn the necessary lessons when it comes to humanity, reliability, openness and effective governance. That also applies to those who shout the loudest about how incredibly cool our 'little country' is. For far too long have we been lulled into the numbness of complacency by political nearsightedness."
Kaag also spoke about the cabinet formation process, which has been dragging on for nearly six months since the parliamentary election on March 17. Kaag said that it is "difficult for her to comprehend" why the formation attempt with left-wing parties GroenLinks and PvdA failed. "Sometimes I have the feeling that I am on a different track than my opponents and colleagues in politics," she said. "Maybe I was too gullible all this time. Because although I had not ruled out that we would end up here, I still hoped otherwise. I thought it was serious, working from the content."
In the summer, the VVD and D66 as the largest two parties wrote an outline that was to form the basis of a coalition agreement, with the idea that other parties could join the coalition based on its content. PvdA and GroenLinks reacted positively to the content, but the VVD and CDA insisted that they don't want to govern with both left-wing parties. Even after GroenLinks and PvdA offered to join the negotiations as one bloc, instead of as two separate parties.
According to Kaag, potential allies where therefore excluded on grounds other than content. "The level of The Hague commotion in this formation is much too high. More time seems to be spent on what is written in the newspaper than the history we want to write ourselves. I don't feel comfortable with that," Kaag said. Former formation informateur Mariette Hamer made similar points when she presented the report on her failed attempt to find a majority coalition.
Kaag said that it is now up to the six parties involved - VVD, D66, CDA, GroenLinks, PvdA, and ChristenUnie - to come up with a solution together. "A good cabinet in the Dutch tradition is a cabinet that consists of conservative and progressive forces. So a balanced cabinet," she said. As the largest party, the VVD has "the responsibility to regain substantive support and political confidence, especially from the left," she added.
The new informateur, Johan Remkes, will start investigating the possibilities for a minority government later this week. Kaag said that her party is willing to talk, but only under clear conditions, including actually tackling the climate crisis. "It is the precondition for everything else. You will understand that I cannot be a credible part of a cabinet that does not deploy a dramatic and ultimate acceleration of the Dutch climate policy."