Quick reflection on yesterday's #omtzigtgate debate in Dutch parliament in which #Rutte survived his own arrogance... for now. 🇳🇱 #Thread
1. First and foremost, this was an own goal, a direct consequence of the arrogance of power and the disdain of parliament by (former) ministers.
2. In that way, this "crisis" was a perfect illustration of what is fundamentally wrong with the functioning of Dutch democracy today.
3. While this didn't started with Rutte, and has been going on for decades, it was definitely made worse by Rutte, whose "Rutte doctrine" is all about frustrating and prevent transparency and (thereby) accountability.
4. Rutte has cleverly used "crises" to justify this, as many other executives have done, and media and parliamentarians have failed at pushing back to this more and more often used "crisis" narrative.

But that is all context.
5. The real "scandal" was not that Rutte (VVD) had spoken about promoting a critical MP (Omtzigt of CDA) away, but that he lied about doing that.

To be sure, he should not have done that, but could simply have admitted that and moved on.
6. It's a bit the same as with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski, in which the lie was worse than the act -- even though Clinton also abused his power, but that rarely featured in the discussion then.
7. I am sure Rutte lied because that's what he does and he has gotten away with it over and over again, so why change. Once he was caught in the lie, admitting the lie was more costly than keeping with it, so he did.
8. Within hours of the debate it was clear that everyone knew (thought) Rutte had lied. Now the real issue was, who cares enough about it to send him away.
9. Obviously, all the opposition parties smelled blood and went for it. It was the leaders of the least mainstream parties that often had the best interventions (Azarkan, Baudet, Wilders) by keep focusing on Rutte and on executive-legislative powers.
10. Arguably most remarkable was the fact that the orthodox Protestant SGP voted for the motion of no confidence. They rarely do this, seeing themselves as neither government nor opposition, and they have worked with Rutte for years. Shows how really everyone thought Rutte lied.
11. Rutte's performance was terrible but understandable. In many ways, he did the same as he has done so often before. Arrogantly disregarding parliament. But this (one) time, parliament actually pushed back and didn't let him go. He only grasped that after long break.
12. Even then, after having had (meaningless) "motion of disapproval" accepted by all but his own party and narrowly survived (meaningful) motion of no confidence, he remained arrogant.
13. As his future coalition partners were trying to save face by claiming he had learned his lesson, and implying he should step back, he said that he had never, at any moment, considered stepping back.
14. Side note: in this debate, leaders of two main coalition partners, Hoekstra (CDA) and Kaag (D66), gave their "maiden speeches" in parliament. Both have been ministers but not MPs. Very reflective of Dutch irrelevance of parliament these days.
15. Hoekstra (CDA) used his time to shelter Rutte, by focusing on "the process" instead of the actors, and attack D66, as both VVD and D66 had "scouts" who were involved in "Omtzigt gate".
16. Ironically, I don't think Omtzigt has ever been so useful to Hoekstra as yesterday, when he wasn't even there. CDA weakened D66 a bit and made itself the key ally of VVD, the leading party, in next government.
17. Kaag was clearly out of her comfort zone, as this was one of her first truly (party) political fight, and she felt pushed and played. She tried to stall for time, which would have profited Rutte more than her.
18. Kaag tried to regain initiative by proposing (meaningless) motion of disapproval, to circumvent (meaningful) motion of no confidence. In essence, this said: I know you lied, but I am still willing to govern with you."
19. This is a particularly bad position for a party that claims to be really concerned with democracy, incuding transparency and accountability.
20. Strategically, it was a big mistake. Rutte was politically dead. Without support from D66 he would not have survived the vote of no confidence and his political career would have almost certainly be over.

What would Kaag gain from that?
21. IF there would be a new government, it would be led by much less powerful VVD politician and Kaag could be the best-known politician in the country and far more powerful within the coalition.
22. IF there would be new elections, there is a big chance VVD would lose big and D66, with now the most known and visible "leader", would win (even more). This could have made her not just stronger within coalition but possibly PM.
23. So, where are we now? Parliament said they are convinced PM lied but main parties said they don't care enough to send him away. Disastrous for trust in political system and for parliament's power vis-a-vis executive.
24. Rutte is not safe yet. While CDA, D66 and CU seem willing to govern with him again, they have only slight majority in Lower House but they come nowhere near majority in Senate.
25. Rutte governments have relied on other parties in Senate for years, which is less partisan and powerful than Lower House. But what incentive do these parties to do this again after having been treated like this in Lower House?
26. Rutte, and coalition parties, hope that Eastern break is going to make people forget, or at least no longer care, so that they can then continue with the excuse of the pandemic ("no time for politics" "our country needs a strong government during this crisis").
27. I wouldn't be surprised if they get away with it. I could even see Rutte bounce back. The Teflon has been scratched, but it still works for part of the Dutch population. But his magic and power have been permanently weakened.
28. IF he survives this scandal, he will go down in next one. In other words, he is on borrowed time, and the other parties know this. Once new elections will become attractive for CDA or D66, they will find reason to break coalition. And there will be many "crises"... #TheEnd

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