Mark Rutte’s headline almost rolled last week during the ‘Omtzigt debate’, due to misleading the House and the voter. But then we saw how power cannot just be dismissed. The thirteen-hour debate concerned the note that scout Ollongren mistakenly leaked with ‘Position Omtzigt, function elsewhere’ on it. At the unveiling of the formation discussions, it turned out that Rutte had said about the critical Member of Parliament: “You have to make something with Omtzigt: become a minister.” During the questionnaire about it, he went into hiding as a teenager caught in the act.
On social media, party chairmen Wilders (PVV) and Baudet (FVD) were conspicuously applauded on the left for putting the fire to the shins of Rutte. And on the right they again expressed appreciation for smaller party leaders such as Simons (BIJ1) and Azarkan (Denk), who let a breath of fresh air blow through the Chamber. This proves that nothing connects as much as a common goal that serves all Dutch people.
That is probably why millions of people followed the debate, as a kind of new form of nightlife in corona time. Unfortunately many woke up with an immense hangover, just like when going out. The harsh tone of coalition parties softened and Rutte seemed to get another chance. Logical, according to the VVD leader himself, given the more than two million votes for his party. When you’ve been in power for so long, you don’t just feel untouchable. You also apparently think that this position belongs to you personally.
VVD prominent people also go to war for their leader as if they were not the ruling power but the underdog. So tweeted VVD senator Annemarie Jorritsma – who should take a neutral role as a scout – her dissatisfaction with criticism from the youth branch. And VVD prominent people such as former Member of Parliament Ton Elias, former minister Henk Kamp and former campaign strategist Jan Driessen were given plenty of room in the media to dismiss criticism as hysteria and hypocrisy. Indeed, when you are not used to your actions having consequences, contradiction can feel like betrayal. Former Secretary of State Fred Teeven even swore that his mattie Mark “really does not cheat people”. But unlike Rutte and co, some of us do have active memories of, for example, the blunders with the memos of the dividend tax, the Teevendal and the Supplement scandal in which the VVD leader was all directly or indirectly involved.
Those who continue to praise the VVD leader apparently find the abuses negligible, because according to most-people-good doctrine, Rutte is a good guy. A fact that often means salvation for the rulers but rarely for the powerless. Just ask citizens on welfare who are certainly good, but will not be spared if they make a human calculation error or misjudgment. Or those who may recycle neatly but are already suspected of having dual nationality when applying for childcare allowance. All of this tells that it has become natural that those with the least power are the most controlled, while those with the most power get away with the unthinkable.
Because despite this latest Rutte affair, D66, CDA, PvdA and GroenLinks do not rule out a cabinet with him. In this way, one political power that should control continues to protect the other – even in the event of abuse of power. The power only changes if you don’t move with it but challenge it. What is happening now is only part of the game that the supreme powers invented and will therefore always win. While the rest of us can watch.
Clarice Gargard is a program maker and freelance journalist.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of April 8, 2021