The ordinary Dutchman is central as new government defends its policies

Photo: Phil Nijhuis/HH

Prime minister Mark Rutte is centre stage in Thursday’s parliamentary discussion on his third administration’s plans, following Wednesday’s long debate in which the opposition lined up to shoot down several key policies.

‘Rutte will have to convince the opposition parties that he really does want to work with them,’ RTL commentator Frits Wester said – alluding to the one-seat majority which the new government has in the lower house.

In particular, Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher has put the new cabinet under pressure by submitting a motion calling on the government to scrap plans to slash €100m from spending on district nursing initiatives.

‘Rutte said in his government statement that the new cabinet wants broad support. Asscher has now challenged the coalition parties to show they are serious,’ Wester said.

The RTL commentator said he expects the new coalition to fall into line and drop the proposal as a gesture of good faith.

During Wednesday’s debate Rutte said ‘the door to the Treveszaal is wide open,’ referring to the cabinet room where the government’s plans for the next four years will be prepared, Trouw pointed out.

‘If one thing stood out on the first day of the debate it was this: all parties – left and right, coalition and opposition, populist and governmental – want to do things to benefit the “ordinary Dutchman” ,’ the NRC wrote in its analysis.

Prime minister Mark Rutte started off by describing the new ministerial line-up as ‘a normal Dutch cabinet’ which will work for ‘the middle groups, the people with a normal salary and a normal home’. Klaas Dijkhoff, new leader of the VVD parliamentary party, also spoke about ‘ordinary people’, as did PVV leader Geert Wilders.

Wilders, however, had a different meaning – the ordinary Dutchman is someone whose country and national pride has been taken from him by Muslims and technocrats in Brussels. ‘Wilders contribution had few surprises – his tirades are becoming folklore in the Binnenhof,’ the paper said.

Dual nationality

Wilders also set the tone by saying he would be submitting motions of no confidence in home affairs minister Kasja Ollongren who also has Swedish nationality. ‘This is the Dutch parliament and you need to be Dutch and only Dutch here,’ he said. ‘I don’t want any Turks, Moroccans or Swedes in this house. Am I not allowed to say that? This is my country.’

‘This is not your country, this is our country,’ GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver, who is half Moroccan, reminded him.

The left-wing opposition parties – PvdA, GroenLinks and the Socialists – attacked the new cabinet from the perspective of the ordinary man versus big capital. In particular, the government’s plans to end the tax on dividends, which will mainly benefit foreign firms, came under fire.

But neither Dijkhoff or CDA parliamentary leader Sybrand Buma were able to say if the measure, which will cost the treasury €1.4bn, will actually attract more foreign firms to the Netherlands. ‘It is a gamble,’ Dijkhoff said.