Rutte leads a new government in the Netherlands after ten months of negotiations | International


King William of Orange, in the center, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, to his right, pose with other ministers of the new Government, at the royal palace in The Hague, this Monday.
King William of Orange, in the center, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, to his right, pose with other ministers of the new Government, at the royal palace in The Hague, this Monday.Peter Dejong (AP)

Almost a year of negotiations has cost the family photo of the new Government of the Netherlands, which was presented this Monday with King William of Orange. It has been ten months of trial and error, disagreements, rejections and mutual reproaches until reaching a pact that repeats the previous center-right coalition. They are the same parties with many new faces and for the first time an even distribution: there are 10 women ministers in a Cabinet of 20, counting the prime minister.

Right-wing liberals (VVD), left-wing liberals (D66), Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Christian Union (CU), a Protestant-inspired party, again divide power around the same leader, Mark Rutte, who thus heads their fourth consecutive term at age 54. The coalition’s motto is “Take care of each other and look to the future”, and they begin to work in a climate of public mistrust in the work of the institutions, strengthened by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

The inauguration took place in the Palace of Noordeinde, in The Hague, which is used by the king for his work. Then, the family photo took place on the exterior stairs, keeping the safety distance of 1.5 meters to avoid contagion. There has been a moment of some confusion there when the party has begun to disperse before the king himself took the initiative. The first council of ministers of the new Government is scheduled for this afternoon.

Parity in the distribution of ministerial posts is a milestone in the Netherlands. The new Finance Minister, Sigrid Kaag, has not been able to be present because she has tested positive for covid. He is a left-wing liberal and was head of Foreign Affairs. Now, her place at the head of one of the most important positions of the Executive can serve as a springboard to emerge as a possible successor to Rutte, given that her party is today the second in votes in Parliament. Kaag has accompanied his colleagues by videoconference.

The Christian Democrat Wopke Hoekstra also repeats, who also changes his portfolio: from Finance to Foreign Affairs. In 2020, it was the face of harshness in the face of southern European countries by opposing from the outset a solidarity proposal to combat the crisis without what it considered sufficient supervision and financial control. Hoekstra acknowledged the criticism received within the EU and also at the national level, and although there were adjustments and the transfers will be conditional on meeting the agreed objectives, he apologized for his tone. As head of Dutch diplomacy, you will have to put all your talents to work in a position that requires both persuasiveness and tact.

Prime Minister Rutte is in office for the fourth time since 2010 and has survived the longest formation of a registered coalition in his country. Furthermore, he surrounds himself with ministers with specific and novel tasks. For example, the Minister of Nature and Nitrogen (attached to the Ministry of Agriculture), the Minister of Climate and Energy (in Economy and Climate), or the Minister of Poverty, Participation and Pensions (in Social Affairs and Employment). There is also a Secretary of State for Mining, in the Ministry of the Interior. And another of Digitization, in the Interior. Departments have been opened to address all the issues discussed during the negotiations, an effort that shows his negotiating skills and also that he is now a survivor.

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Although Rutte is in good shape, he has managed to form a government after being condemned by Parliament last April for allegedly lying during the negotiations that have led to this inauguration. He fought for his political life and was able to move on, although with less brilliance. From now on, he will not only continue to face the containment of the coronavirus. His Cabinet will try to reduce nitrogen emissions in the fight against climate change, and will look for a way to increase the construction of houses without exceeding the polluting limits. During this new legislature, a parliamentary investigation is expected on the damage caused by natural gas extraction in the north of the country. The one dedicated to the scandal of family allowances will be expanded, which adds some 48,000 affected by a fraud that they did not commit, and last January forced the resignation of the previous Government. And the very management of the pandemic will be analyzed. Rutte will have to work harder than ever in what may be his last chapter in power.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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