Never a dull moment in Dutch politics! The current coalition government is sticking together, but looking back at 2018 and ahead to 2019, cracks seem to appear.
2018 – What has happened?
- GroenLinks/Greens and local parties were the big winners of the municipal elections (in March). GroenLinks even became the biggest party in two main cities (Amsterdam and Utrecht) and local parties gained over 32% of the votes.
- Support for the coalition government has dropped significantly, possibly due to a lack of tangible results.
- Prime Minister Rutte has suffered a blow after being forced to cancel the planned repeal of dividend tax, only just surviving a vote of no confidence in a parliamentary debate.
- Alexander Pechtold, leader of D66/Liberal Democrats, resigned after almost 13 years, to be succeeded by the ‘young and unexperienced’ Rob Jetten (31 years of age).
- Following long negotiations involving many stakeholders (companies, NGOs, etc.) a comprehensive National Climate Agreement was presented in December. Now the government needs to agree on its execution, which could be difficult. Views differ significantly, mainly regarding the question who will foot the bill of the proposed measures. Last week VVD-leader Klaas Dijkhoff even publicly distanced himself from the agreement.
2019 – The coalition government has a bumpy ride ahead
- The provincial elections (20 March) will be a serious test for the government; the to be elected provincial councilors in the 12 provinces will in turn elect the senate on 27 May. Key question is whether the government will keep its current slight majority in Senate.
- The European elections (23 May) will be the next benchmark for the popularity of government; due to Brexit, 29 seats in the European Parliament are now at stake (instead of the current 26).
- The reform of the pension system, as announced in the coalition agreement, is probably the hottest potato for the government. In 2018 initial talks with stakeholders have proven unsuccessful – talks between unions and employers were ceased – and now the minister of Social Affairs has to come up with a new plan.
- The government also plans to reform the labor market (strengthen the position of freelancers, prepare workers for the future, etc.) which will not be an easy political ride either.
- Although currently the Dutch economy doing well, it will be a challenge for the government to manage the negative impact of Brexit on the Dutch economy, which is closely tied to Britain. A no-deal Brexit could even cost the Netherlands at least €34bn up to 2030 (which is €164 per resident per year).
Photo: Rijksoverheid by Valerie Kuypers