The Dutch monarchy faces a vote in parliament this week which could remove its remaining political powers, stripping Queen Beatrix of her role as head of state and reducing her public functions to purely ceremonial ones.
As well as being head of state, the Dutch monarch has traditionally been president of the influential council of state, and has regularly over the years become actively involved in the tortuous negotiations leading to the formation of coalition governments.
Now, however, the predominant view across the political spectrum – with Queen Beatrix expected to be succeeded by her son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, in the not too distant future – is that the Netherlands needs a “more modern” monarchy, in other words, a less powerful one.
Geert Wilders’ right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) will table a motion which would remove every last vestige of political power – ending the monarch’s role as head of state, removing her as head of the council of state, and removing her right to play a part in the negotiation of governments.
Unusually for the PVV, its motion has widespread support. It is expected to be backed by the Socialists, Greens, the social democrat D66 and a number of smaller political parties – all of whom want a leaner monarchy with fewer royals paid from the exchequer.
Opposition to the PVV motion will come from both parties in the minority coalition government, the Liberals (VVD) and the Christian Democrats (CDA), as well as two minor Christian parties, the Christian Union (CU) and the orthodox Protestant party, SGP.
The Labour Party’s position will be crucial. On Friday it said that while it believed the monarch should no longer be head of the council of state or interfere in the formation of governments, it maintained that the PVV’s aim of removing Queen Beatrix as head of state was a snub too far.
That potentially leaves parliament finely balanced. If Labour votes with the Liberals and the Christian Democrats against the PVV motion, then it will be voted down. But if it abstains then the motion could be carried by just a few votes.
A victory for Mr Wilders would be another indication of the PVV’s growing strength. Latest polling shows that if an election were held today, the Liberals would remain the largest party, with their seats reduced from 31 to 30.
However, they would be neck-and-neck for the first time with the PVV, who would increase their tally from 24 to 29.
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