With parliament in recess until September 3, the Dutch papers have been busy assessing the first eight months of Mark Rutte’s second cabinet, a combination of the right-wing Liberal VVD and the Labour party (PvdA)
Most of the papers carry a list of the policies and problems which have dogged the cabinet since it came to power last October. Plans to make the better-off pay much higher health insurance premiums were quickly shelved and other policies have come under fire from cabinet party members.
Even the much-heralded social agreement – a decision to delay a round of austerity measures until after the summer in the hope the economy picks up – has now been eclipsed by the need to make even greater savings.
Labour’s social affairs minister Ronald Plasterk is featured in the AD, saying he is concerned the coalition has so far failed to achieve any savings.
‘Lots of savings have been planned but not put into practice,’ he said in an interview. ‘In concrete terms, nothing has really been achieved.’
The big hits still have to be felt and that is not good news, the minister says, pointing out that after the holidays a further €6bn in austerity measures will have to be found.’
Nos television says it has not been an easy political year. ‘The cabinet is wrestling with the cuts and keeps trying to make agreements with the opposition parties. Junior ministers have been under fire and have to deal with motions of no confidence,’ Nos said. ‘In the meantime, we have a new king and the chairman of the senate resigned.’
The broadcaster also looks at the position of the upper house of parliament, where opposition leaders have made it clear they will not support legislation they do not like.
‘It is clear what the CDA considers to be good policy,’ CDA senate leader Elco Brinkman says. ‘We have set out our position but I would not recommend a hard clash.’
D66 leader Roger van Boxtel told the broadcaster: ‘I would rather the cabinet did not collapse but it must take primary responsibility.’
They both expect a stream of new legislation after the summer – particularly in relation to the social agreement and the housing agreement, both signed by ministers with outside parties in the spring.
The Volkskrant takes a more positive line and looks at what it calls the ‘three secrets of an unbreakable marriage’ – referring to the close ties between the prime minister and Labour leader Diederik Samsom, who is not in the cabinet.
Both men are facing rebellion in the ranks, they’ve lost a junior minister and it is far from certain whether the policies outlined in their coalition agreement will ever become a reality, the paper points out.
Nevertheless, nothing has so far dented their relationship, the paper says. The first reason for their close ties is the decision to ‘keep a tight hold on the reins’.
The two men and their two deputies hold weekly meetings to go through developments. The most important agreement Rutte and Samsom have made is not to have secrets and to talk about everthing.
The second reason for the success of the marriage is the decision to ‘keep an eye on the prize’. After 10 years of unstable government, both men want to rule the country for the long term and to reap the benefits.
The third is their step-by-step approach, the paper says. ‘Keep it small and move forward step by step. Every obstacle they circumnavigate is a plus’.
The most unknown quantity in the relationship is the Liberal parliamentary leader Halbe Zijlstra. He is particularly alert to any more attempts to reduce pay differentials. Come the autumn budget talks, he could be the catalyst for divorce, the paper says.