Cabinet restart: what the papers say

The late-night agreement between the cabinet and three opposition parties has given prime minister Mark Rutte some breathing space, but nothing is yet certain, say the Dutch papers on Saturday.

The Volkskrant points out in its analysis that the social agreement – the deal on job creation signed earlier this year by unions, employers and ministers – is being broken open after all.

Prime minister Mark Rutte has been brushing away all the cynics who said his second government may also strand and that he needed a rescue plan, the paper writes.

‘Late on Friday night we had the official recognition [of this] in the form of the budget agreement,’ the paper said. The three opposition parties have assumed the status of rescue workers who are giving Rutte artificial respiration in the hope of breathing new life into his cabinet.’

‘We still don’t have a determined cabinet but at least the political fundamentals are there,’ the paper said.

Nick of time

The Financieele Dagblad says the government has once again agreed a budget ‘in the nick of time’. The prime minister was deaf to opposition calls before the summer holiday on how he planned to put together a €6bn austerity package.

What has happened now is unique in Dutch political history, the paper says. We have now had a sort of interim government formation process to which everyone was invited.

The resulting coalition is ‘purple’ with a Biblical tint, the paper says. ‘Purple’ was the name given to two VVD, D66 and Labour cabinets last century.

The two Christian parties ChristenUnie and the SGP were keen to soften the impact of the austerity package on families with children, while D66 wanted more money for education and redundancy reform.

High price

The Parool says the cabinet has paid a high price for the agreement. It points out that the fundamentalist SGP won just 2% of the vote at the last election but has been able to influence the budget to the tune of €1.2bn, through ensuring school books remain free, child benefit is not cut and the defence ministry gets more cash.

But even if it appears there is now stability in The Hague, it is still far from certain, the paper says.

‘Every agreement the government has signed has loose ends. Look at the panic after the new government was formed last year and the income-dependent health insurance plan was quickly dumped. It remains to be seen if the cabinet has been careful this time round.’

‘The big question mark remains over how the government will cope with any further setbacks,’ the paper states.

Continual formation

Writing in Elsevier’s online version Syp Wynia says the prime minister is not running the country. ‘He has been conceding, informing and repairing for a year or three,’ Wynia states.

‘Rutte has too many late night meetings with civil servants and politicians in an effort to keep his administration afloat. He is not running the country, he is permanently putting a coalition together.’

‘Belgium came under fire when it took 541 days to put together a new coalition government,’ Wynia says. ‘But the Netherlands has beaten that record hands down.’