Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte appears to be weathering what he describes as the worst political crisis of his nine years in power.
Rutte’s four-party government has seen protests by builders and farmers against far-reaching plans to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution.
Now motorists are angry too. To cut emissions, the coalition has lowered the daytime speed limit on Dutch highways from 130 to 100 kilometers per hour. The measure is hugely unpopular in Rutte’s car-friendly liberal party.
Mark Rutte has suffered the same fate as his closest ally in Europe, Angela Merkel. Both center-right leaders moved to the middle in a bid for centrist voters only to leave a gap on the right that the far right has filled.
In midterm elections on Wednesday, the Dutch Freedom Party and Forum for Democracy won a combined 21 percent of the votes, their best result to date.
The Netherlands’ Mark Rutte has been reprimanded by opposition parties for failing to disclose memos to parliament about internal government deliberations over the repeal of a business tax.
Rutte claimed he had not been aware of the papers, which were drafted by the Finance Ministry during the formation of his current government. The four parties in his coalition, which have a one-seat majority, accepted this explanation. All opposition parties but one voted to censure him.
Rutte surprised other parties by eliminating the dividend tax when he returned to power in October. Repeal had not been part of his election program. The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell — two of the Netherlands’ largest companies — lobbied him to eliminate the tax. Read more “Rutte Survives Tax Debacle, Middle America Not Doing So Badly”
When his latest government, a coalition of Christian and liberal parties, came to power in October, he claimed there was no paperwork to support its contention that the Netherlands needed to eliminate dividend tax altogether in order to remain competitive. Now it turns out the Finance Ministry did write a series of memos on the topic — and doubted the tax played a major role in multinationals’ decisionmaking.
The Finance Ministry produces a lot of memos when political parties are negotiating to form a government, so it is possible that Rutte didn’t see this one.
Except this was by far the most controversial policy of the new government. None of the governing parties had promised to cut dividend tax in their manifestos. There had been no public debate about it.
The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell lobbied to get the tax removed.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called for pragmatism in a speech in Berlin in Friday. The best way to take the wind out of the sails of Euroskeptic parties, he said, is to show results:
Lofty visions do not create jobs or security. Nor does shouting from the ends of the political spectrum. Only hard work […] produces results that benefit people in their daily lives.
The Merkelian rhetoric is a reality check for French president Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed far-reaching reforms in Europe.
With Britain, traditionally an ally, leaving the bloc, the Netherlands is becoming more vocal in resisting what it — and the German right — fear would amount to transfer union: the permanent subsidization of poorer member states by the wealthy.
The Netherlands has a responsibility to lead after Brexit and worries that Germany is putting too much faith in “more Europe”, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said.
In an interview with the Sunday morning talk show Buitenhof, the liberal party leader pointed out that he had recently held summits with other Benelux nations, the Balts, Central Europeans and Nordics.
Unusually, he took a stab at Germany, where the next government is expected to be more integrationist.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is leading the opposition to Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for closer European integration, warning a liberal conference in Amsterdam this weekend that “integration for integration’s sake” will undermine public support for the EU.
“The EU needs to solve problems that we, as individual member states, cannot solve alone,” he said. “A federal Europe is not the answer to those problems and neither is a politics based on symbolism.”
International coverage of Mark Rutte’s reelection campaign in the Netherlands has largely emphasized the ways in which he emulates Geert Wilders.
This report from The New York Times is a typical example. It claims the liberal premier has taken a “Trump-like turn” in the face of a “hard-right challenge”, siding with the “silent majority” in his country against non-natives.
It’s a little over the top but not altogether wrong. Rutte’s center-right party has adopted more repressive immigration and integration policies. It has also become more Euroskeptic since Wilders started out a decade ago.