‘Teflon’ Mark Rutte set for fourth Dutch term after record-breaking talks

Dutch political parties have reached a new coalition agreement, paving the way for the country’s caretaker prime minister, Mark Rutte, to form his fourth successive government a record 271 days after general elections in March.

The text of the accord between Rutte’s rightwing liberal VVD party, the progressive D66, Christian Democrat CDA and orthodox Christian party Christen Unie will be presented to the parties’ MPs on Tuesday and the whole parliament on Wednesday.

If approved, the coalition will make Rutte the longest-serving Dutch prime minister nearly a year after his third cabinet resigned over a child benefit scandal in which thousands of parents were falsely accused of fraud, sometimes after racial profiling.

The new government would take office in January after the parties select ministers. “It’s a good agreement,” Rutte told reporters as he left the talks late on Monday night. “But how it’s put into practice is what really matters.”

He warned while the negotiators had reached an agreement, the deal “still has to go to the parties, through parliament. We are not done yet.” Sigrid Kaag, whose D66 party won the second most seats in the March 17 elections, said it was a “balanced accord”.

Details of the accord have not been released but Dutch media have said policy highlights will include spending to address the country’s structural housing shortage, subsidies for childcare, and higher spending on healthcare and schools.

The new government is also expected to spend billions on measures to fight the climate crisis, as the Netherlands has constantly missed its goals over the years and is still among the countries with the highest COemissions per capita in the EU.

It was also being billed as a “recovery government” to help the country back on its feet after the pandemic, the public broadcaster NOS, said, and spend heavily on “problems that have not been solved for a long time” – although without a majority in the upper house it will need opposition support to pass controversial legislation.

The nine months of coalition talks are the longest in Dutch history, beating the 215 days it took to record to form the last cabinet. They were derailed early on when parliament formally censured Rutte, accusing him of undermining public trust and “not speaking the truth” about the negotiations.

The Christen Unie leader said he would not join a fourth Rutte government, while Kaag told Rutte – prime minister since 2010 – that he should resign. Nicknamed Teflon Mark for his ability to survive, Rutte is poised to be confirmed as the EU’s longest-serving government leader together with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.


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