THE HAGUE–The new Dutch cabinet was sworn in by King Willem-Alexander on Thursday morning before posing for the traditional photograph on the steps of the King’s offices in the Noordeinde palace in The Hague. Seven months after the general election, the new line-up of 16 Ministers and eight State Secretaries is now ready to start work.
“We are going to keep a close eye on the money,” Rutte said Wednesday, after holding individual talks with all the members of his third administration.
Although a largely new team, one member – Menno Snel, who will take charge of the tax office – has no political experience and, according to the Volkskrant newspaper, was not even a member of centre-democrat D66 before his appointment.
All but two of the eight State Secretaries are sitting Members of Parliament (MPs), as are most of the other Ministers.
Just three faces from the previous cabinet – Prime Minister Mark Rutte and former State Secretaries Eric Wiebes of Finance and Sander Dekker of Education, Welfare and Sport – are returning to frontline jobs.
Rutte’s new cabinet is the first in 40 years to draw its members from four different parties – conservative VVD, Christian Democrat CDA, centre-democrat D66 and Christian Union – and its line-up is strikingly homogenous.
The team of 24 Ministers and State Secretaries comprises 14 men and 10 women. Rutte has acknowledged there is a lack of woman Ministers, but argued, “What counts in the end is that we have the best people.”
None of the 24 ministers has a non-European background and just one, Croatian-born Barbara Visser, originates from outside the Netherlands.
Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren is the only dual national, with Dutch and Swedish passports, and is also the first openly gay politician to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister.
The Cabinet also has a narrower age span than its predecessor, with 40-year-old Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Carola Schouten the youngest member, while Minister of Security and Justice Ferdinand Grapperhaus (CDA) is the most senior at 57.
The four parties making up the new coalition have a majority of just one seat in the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber, so the knives from the nine opposition parties will be out from the start.
Party for Freedom PVV leader Geert Wilders, with 20 MPs the second largest party, has already attacked several of the new Ministers for what he calls their links to terrorism.
Of the new entrants to Second Chamber this March, Thierry Baudet of Forum for Democracy has shown himself to be a master of theatrics. On the other side of the political spectrum, green-left GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver, who pulled out of coalition talks despite coming in fifth in the election with 14 seats, will be keeping a close eye on the cabinet’s ambitious plans to combat climate change.
Labour PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the previous administration, has also been quick to make noise, calling on the new Government to abandon its plans to cut spending on district nursing.
Rutte’s third cabinet since coming to power in 2010 will find support from the strongest Dutch economic growth in a decade at more than three percent, but only has a one-seat majority in both Houses of Parliament. Dissent by any parliament member could therefore endanger the coalition’s plans.
Negotiations lasted 225 days as parties dug in over sensitive issues ranging from immigration and euthanasia to corporate tax rates.
Under a detailed government accord reached earlier this month, broad tax cuts are to benefit both companies and workers. This should boost the spending power of consumers, while making the Eurozone’s fifth largest economy more attractive for foreign investors.
The installation of the new Government marks the departure of Eurogroup President and Minister of Finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who has said he will leave Dutch politics.
Dijsselbloem was succeeded by 42-year-old CDA member Wopke Hoekstra, while the former parliamentary leader of the VVD Halbe Zijlstra is heading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Another notable newcomer is Sigrid Kaag, a well-known diplomat who served as the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon since 2015. She is the new Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.