Frans Timmermans would very much like to rule with the PvdA/GroenLinks combination. “That is the aim of the collaboration,” said the brand new party leader. But it is a “complicated story” to rule with the VVD again. There is the fear that the Liberals will simply waltz over the “united left.”
“I have seen that the VVD, especially under Rutte, was able to crush any coalition party in a coalition,” said Timmermans. He was a Minister in the second Rutte Cabinet, in which only the VVD and PvdA sat. After the government’s term in office, the PvdA experienced a historical electoral defeat, losing 29 of its 38 seats. The PvdA attributes this to the budget cuts made by that Cabinet and the cooperation with the much more right-wing VVD.
Something like that “must never happen to this combination,” Timmermans told the press. “So then you must be strong enough to become invincible against the VVD.” He does not want to exclude the VVD in advance, but according to him, it depends on the “electoral relations between the parties” and whether cooperation is possible. With this, he seems to suggest that he really only wants to work with the VVD if the PvdA/GL wins more seats than the liberals.
Timmermans especially emphasized that he wanted to cooperate with more left-wing parties. He adopted the term “united left” from Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) to indicate that the door is also open to other parties. He specifically mentioned the PvdD and the SP. There are differences between the socialists and the “red-green” combination, Timmermans admits. During the previous European elections, the SP specifically opened fire on Timmermans with a fiercely criticized campaign spot about “Hans Brusselmans,” a parody of Timmermans who was supposed to symbolize the “Brussels elite.”
“You can magnify differences, but they pale when you compare them with the differences with the right,” said Timmermans in an appeal to the socialists during an introductory evening with members of GroenLinks and PvdA. The present members loudly applauded that.
NATO standard on defense spending
Timmermans also said he would lay down in law that the Netherlands would spend 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. “I think we should do that,” he said in response to a question from a party member about this. The two parties were previously not in favor of enshrining the NATO standard in law.
“We have lived off the peace dividend for decades, and Putin is now reaping the benefits of that,” Timmermand said about the Russian president. “So we have no choice for our credibility and for our own defense.” There is currently an initiative bill from SGP, VVD, CDA, and VOLT to legally establish the NATO standard.
Neither PvdA nor GroenLinks was previously enthusiastic about that plan. But, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was not just left-wing parties that wanted to spend little on defense, Timmermans stressed. “I can assure you of one thing. In the negotiations I’ve done with right-wing parties, the first point they dropped is defense spending. So don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a point from the left.”
Hopes for a “neat” campaign
Timmermans hopes for a neat and decent campaign for the upcoming parliamentary election on November 22. Politicians must take each other seriously and “leave each other whole as a person,” the social democrat said. “I think politicians have lost a lot of respect.” He hopes for a campaign that “leaves out stereotypes, avoids putting people away.” Such a campaign can help reduce the “inherent anger” many people feel.
According to Timmermans, that anger is largely due to uncertainty about the future. To regain confidence in politics, you have to “look at the government in a different way,” he told party members. Timmermans said, “the government must once again play a directing, controlling, and protective role.”
According to the party leader, the parties in the outgoing Rutte IV Cabinet mainly wanted to solve major issues with money instead of tackling the structures that caused those problems. “You have to dare to think about decades, then fill it in step by step.”
Reporting by ANP and NL Times