The cabinet has fallen, prime minister Mark Rutte has said he will leave politics after the next election and there won’t be a vote until November at the earliest. Here’s what happens now.
When will the election take place?
The collapse of the Dutch coalition government – 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.
In Dutch electoral law an election must take place within three months of the formal decision to dissolve parliament. In addition, election officials must make sure there is enough time for parties to register and find candidate MPs, for Dutch nationals abroad to sign up to vote and for local authorities to organise everything. The summer holidays could be a complicating factor.
The chairman of the electoral council has already said that given the recent provincial elections and everything else that needs to be done, “elections can take place at the earliest in mid November”.
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 also just 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 on Friday, the day the cabinet fell. On Monday, MPs are debating the cabinet collapse but officially, parliamentary business has now stopped until September 4.
However, you can expect a 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 is also launching a special election website section so you can follow the main news as it comes in.
Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.
We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.Make a donation