A wafer-thin plan
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THE MESSENGER was a 79 year-old former top civil servant-turned-labour party politician, who in the 1990s served for six years as chairman of the Senate. Which looks like a decent set of qualifications - technocrat, statesman, left-leaning - to assess what’s gone wrong in serial Dutch coalition governments.
Herman Diederik Tjeenk Willink was deployed by prime minister Mark Rutte in the role of informateur, with a brief to rebuild trust between the cabinet and parliament after a string of scandals. His interim report set out principles to inform the ongoing multi-party talks on the formation of a new coalition government.
Willink’s advice? In a nutshell: Keep it short.
He urged a “wafer-thin” coalition agreement - een flinterdun coalitieakkord. By sticking to the bare bones - an outline of four or five major issues, reported public broadcaster NOS - parties could sidestep the kind of hard-won compromises baked-in to previou…