Almost all of the opposition supports a motion of no confidence against the cabinet, but Rutte IV will remain in office for a while. The fact that coalition partners D66 and CDA oppose each other on nitrogen policy remains an open wound.


Tobias den Hartog, Wouter Peer


Last update:
09-04-23, 10:48

When D66 party leader Jan Paternotte meets an opposition leader in the Chamber building, he quips: “You’re saying goodbye to a mediocre married couple.” Striking: because despite a heated debate and internal division, the cabinet is maintained, but there is little talk of love anymore.

After the parliamentary elections, a defeat of VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie, the nitrogen approach in particular is being discussed. D66 wants to see emissions halved by 2030, as laid out in the coalition agreement. But CDA wants to renegotiate that in ‘a few months’, a unique parliamentary situation. Because no one knows: will they get there? And well, will there still be a front until then?

According to Prime Minister Mark Rutte, yes. “These parties agree that we must achieve nitrogen reduction.” He is ‘very confident’ that they will figure it out. Because the year 2030 has already ‘become a bit more porous’, he says, because Johan Remkes’s advice was not to stick to it rigidly, but to take the calibration moments in 2025 and 2028 first. And renegotiation is always possible.” .

Rutte does not find it a problem that this uncertainty can last for months. “In the meantime, we will continue with the policy.” In fact, Rutte dares to say that things are ‘accelerating’. For example, provinces could receive an advance on the costs they will incur for nitrogen reduction.

CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra heard him nodding. He especially wants a start to be made with nitrogen reduction, he emphasizes. “We’ve been talking about it for a year and we haven’t gotten any closer,” Hoekstra said. He now wants to wait for the plans of the provinces and the agrarian agreement. But after that, the CDA wants to renegotiate the 2030 nitrogen date. He calls it ‘unsustainable’ and ‘unsustainable’ by the CDA. That’s ‘not an easy message’ in coalition relations, he acknowledges.


Appointment

Mr. Rutte, rule or resign

Jesse Klaver, Groen Links

Gain time

However, the faction leaders of the ruling parties are holding on for now, not denying themselves. On the one hand, they want to show understanding for the CDA and a desire to renegotiate. “We’ll see,” said Jan Paternotte (D66) laconically.

On the other hand, it is also becoming clear that the nitrogen targets (and the year 2030) still stand for D66 and VVD. “I also don’t see how I could get around the 2030 target,” Paternotte said. And the leader of the VVD party, Sophie Hermans, is also impressed. After all, it is her minister Van der Wal (nitrogen, VVD) who has kept her up until now. But what all four parts share is the feeling that buying time is nice. None of the coalition partners dares to call new elections.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Sigrid Kaag, Finance Minister, and Carola Schouten, Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions, during a suspension of the debate in the House of Representatives on the results of the elections for the Provincial Council.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Sigrid Kaag, Finance Minister, and Carola Schouten, Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions, during a suspension of the debate in the House of Representatives on the results of the elections for the Provincial Council. © ANP

no confidence motion

As fragile as the marriage is, the opposition could not further divide the coalition partners. Not for lack of enthusiasm. “Mr. Rutte, rule or resign,” said GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver. And PVV member Geert Wilders: “Why are you still here?” This cabinet is in an advanced state of dissolution”.

Much of the opposition supported a motion of no confidence against Rutte IV’s cabinet. The motion was tabled by GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver and was also signed by PvdA, BBB, PVV, PvdD, DENK and non-partisan MP Pieter Omtzigt. SP, Groep Van Haga, FvD, JA21 and Volt also voted in favour, but without the coalition parties the motion would not reach a majority. This is the first widely supported vote of no confidence since the infamous ‘position elsewhere’ debate on April 1, 2021.

However, the opposition is also divided. GroenLinks, PvdA, and Volt are D66 compatible to maintain top gear as far as nitrogen reduction is concerned. While SGP, JA21 and BBB want to force CDA to slow down.

In any case, Rutte will not give in: his cabinet can continue, also the nitrogen policy. “This should not lead to delays.”

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