The general election will take place on Wednesday November 22, sources have told broadcaster NOS and news agency ANP. Ministers are due to formalise the decision at Friday’s cabinet meeting.
The electoral council said earlier that it would be mid November at least before the election could be held because of legal time limits and the summer recess. General elections always take place on a Wednesday.
The cabinet collapsed last Friday when ministers failed to agree on measures to reduce the number of close family members coming to the Netherlands to join people who had been granted refugee status.
The collapse of the coalition – an alliance between the VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie – means the Netherlands will hold new elections over a year early, given a cabinet term in the Netherlands is four years and the last election was held on March 17, 2021.
Who runs the country in the meantime?
The current coalition will remain in office until a new coalition government is sworn in in a caretaker capacity. In technical terms the coalition is known as “demissionair”, as are ministers. Dutch News uses “caretaker” to describe demissionair ministers if relevant.
By convention, caretaker ministers will limit their work to dealing with issues deemed to be ‘non-controversial’ by both houses of parliament. In the case of the present government, tackling nitrogen pollution, the issue of asylum and migration, and housing reforms are all likely to be left well alone until we have a new coalition.
Do we still have a prime minister?
Mark Rutte has said he is leaving politics and will not lead the VVD’s election campaign. Technically this means that he will no longer be prime minister once there has been a general election and a new government has been formed. Until then, he will stay on the job, as will the rest of the ministers, unless they resign in the meantime to take up a new position in industry or the public sector – which does happen.
How long will it take before we have a new government?
Since World War II it has taken an average of 94 days to put a new coalition together, but the current cabinet took 299 days to be formed – the longest in post war history. Current opinion polls indicate at least three parties will be needed to form a coalition, so there is a good chance it could be a lengthy process.
The Dutch lower house of parliament has 150 seats, so a coalition needs to control at least 76 to be comfortable.
All in all, it is likely to be well into next year before the Netherlands again has a government which is able to take difficult decisions.
What about the polls?
It’s too early to say what the impact of Rutte’s decision to quit will be on the VVD’s fortunes. A poll of the viewers of television programme EenVandaag last week suggested that 71% of VVD voters had no problem if he stayed in the job although three-quarters of all voters said he should pack his bags.
According to the most recent poll of polls from the end of June, the VVD and the pro-farmers party BBB are neck and neck, with up to 18% support. The far right PVV would win up to 10% of the vote, with the left-wing greens GroenLinks, liberal democratic D66 and the Labour party (PvdA) all on up to 8%.
GroenLinks and the PvdA have announced an electoral pact, which would propel them into third place if all their voters support the plan. Again, the impact of that on the polls has yet to be seen.
So what will happen in the next few weeks?
The summer recess officially started last Friday, the day the cabinet fell, and officially parliamentary business has now stopped until September 4.
You can expect flurry of more announcements about party leaders standing down, MPs saying they will not stand again and who is ruling out joining a cabinet with who.
Dutch News has also launched special election 2023 website section where all election related news can be found.