At a press conference on October 10th in The Hague, Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the new government coalition with four parties: his centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), the Democrats 66 (D66), and the Christian Union (CU).
On the day of Rutte’s official announcement, it had been 209 days since coalition talks began after the March 15th election, marking the longest coalition formation in Dutch modern history since 1977 when negotiations lasted 208 days, according to Politico Europe. As the cabinet will be officially instated within the next few weeks, these coalition talks set the record for the longest time that The Netherlands has been without a government. The worldwide record for the longest time without a government belongs to The Netherlands’ southern neighbor, when Belgium spent 541 days negotiating and forming a government in 2010-2011.
This will be Rutte’s third ruling coalition, but it is sure to face adversity. The Guardian reported that the new coalition gives Rutte a margin of only one seat in the lower house of Parliament. Since there are only 150 seats, and the coalition holds only 76 seats, theoretically one vote of no-confidence from a government seat-holder would be enough to put the governing coalition in jeopardy.
The VVD faced much expected dischord during the campaign. The Socialist Party (SP) said that they wouldn’t work with VVD, and Rutte has made it clear that there would be no place for the far-right Freedom Party (PVV) in the new government, led by Geert Wilders. Jesse Klaver, the leader of Groenlinks, had even taken his party out of the negotiations in the first round. During negotiations, the D66’s party leader, Alexander Pechtold, had announced that his party would refuse to be in coalition talks with CU. However, this coalition shows that Rutte was successful in convincing D66 and the CU to overcome their differences and work together in the coalition, at least for now.
The liberal D66 support gay marriage and euthanasia for the terminally-ill and for those tired of living. The conservative CU diverge sharply on these and other policies that the D66 back, firmly opposing euthanasia and abortion.
Despite the uncertainty throughout the negotiations, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy (CPB) found that the Dutch economy is growing at a strong rate of 3.3% this year, putting it among the top growth rates of Europe.
The members of the coalition all agreed to and compromised on many policies in a 70-page coalition plan. The government intends to reduce the number of income tax bands from four to two, raising the rate for the lowest band from 36.55% to 37%, and reducing the rate for the top band from 52% to 49.5. The government will also prevent refugees who have residency permits from claiming welfare benefits, until they have been in the Netherlands for two years. Other plans include hosting a social discussion on euthanasia, cutting CO2 emissions by half from 1990 levels, and increasing primary school improvements by €770 million.