Edition 30 November 2017, by Marla Thomson
After 7 months of meetings, negotiations and compromising the new Dutch Government was finalized on 26 October 2017. General elections were held on 15 March 2017 with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) lead by the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, winning most of the votes. As multi-party political system, no one party is likely to win a majority necessitating the formation of a coalition government and executive cabinet.
Mark Rutte – VVD Prime Minister
Leading the party with the largest number of votes, Mark Rutte is starting his third term as Prime Minister. “The first among equals”, Mr. Rutte was tasked with leading the government formation process and ultimately selecting the members of the new cabinet. Mr. Rutte’s third tenure will take all the skill, expertise and experience he has accumulated as the Netherlands face high-stakes challenges on the domestic and international fronts coupled with the growing lack of faith many Dutch have in politics. Still, he is confident: “We have tried to find people with an ego that can also take a beating. There is a really nice team of 23 characters.”
Hugo de Jonge – CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal)
Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport; Deputy Prime Minister The leader of the second largest party in the coalition is given the position of first Deputy Prime Minister, and for Hugo de Jonge also the appointment as Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. Mr. de Jonge is no stranger to healthcare policy making and administration as he served as alderman in Rotterdam where his portfolio included family, youth and education and he worked in the Ministry of Education. Mr. de Jonge has been a supporter of programs to persuade parents who are considered “vulnerable” (addicts, mentally disturbed) to consider contraceptives. Controversial programs like this will not likely go far with the new government with differing ideologies on such initiatives.
Kajsa Ollongren – D66 (Democrats 66)
Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Ollongren is currently acting mayor of Amsterdam and will now be leading the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations – no small task either, as this ministry oversees the internal affairs of the Kingdom and internal relations abroad. A confidant and former colleague of the Prime Minister and seasoned local and national politician, Ms. Ollongren can surely navigate The Hague’s political scene well. However, her initial hesitation with including the Christian Unie (CU) in the coalition could prove problematic.
Carola Schouten – CU (Christian Unie)
Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality; Deputy Prime Minister The last and smallest party of the coalition is represented by Carola Schouten and the CU party. With solid experience in social welfare, housing, higher education throughout her political career plus having been raised on a farm, Ms. Schouten will bring keen insight and experience from her previous role in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
Halbe Zijlstra – VVD Minister of Foreign Affairs
With little foreign policy experience, Halbe Zijlstra will have a lot to prove. His words can sometimes be harsh but they are relevant: realizing the need for more military independence from the United States, the growing military and political threats from Russia and the security of the Kingdom in general. For such a high-profile role, it’s not surprising Mr. Rutte chose a member from his own party to lead this ministry.
Wopke Hoekstra – CDA Minister of Finance
Wopke Hoekstra has extensive experience in the private sector and long, active participation in his party. Not always going along his party lines, this tenured financial professional has been known to vote his conscience over party. This could serve him well in the coalition government that requires compromise, even with one’s own party.
Ferdinand Grapperhaus – CDA Minister of Justice and Security
Bringing nearly three decades of work in law, Ferdinand Grapperhaus was a solid choice for Minister of Justice and Security, though he has been known to be outspoken about a variety of issues. How this strong attitude might affect the coalition is yet to be known, but with his statements against the leader of the US after he disrespected the judicial system it is clear that his reverence for the rule of law will be a strong asset.
Eric Wiebes – VVD Minister of Economic Affairs and the Environment
Representing the VVD in another cabinet post, Eric Wiebes will head the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Environment. With experience in both national politics having worked previously in the Ministry of Economics and heading clean air initiatives as an alderman in Amsterdam, this party colleague of the Prime Minister wants to bring climate and economic growth together for the future of the Netherlands.
Ank Bijleveld – CDA Minister of Defense
Ms. Bijleveld is a surprise selection for Minister of Defense with little experience in national defense outside of her father being a career soldier. She did serve previously in the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom affairs that is closely aligned with defense, though the current state of world security and the recent scandals in the Dutch army will bring many challenges to the new defense minister.
Ingrid van Engelshoven – D66 Minister Education, Culture and Science Ms. van Engelshoven has a passion for children and education, as she stated “Children are now put in [too much] too quickly.” She’s an advocate for multi-year bridging classes that will give students more time to decide which education and career path to take. She served as education alderman in The Hague as well as been called her party’s resurrector in recent years.
Cora van Nieuwenhuizen – VVD Minister of Infrastructure, Public Works and Water Management
The newly appointed Minister of Infrastructure and Public Works is the only member of the cabinet who has served all level: local, national and European. In Brabant, on the local level, her portfolio included infrastructure and waterways, making her – along with her party affiliate , an obvious choice for this ministry.
Wouter Koolmees – D66 Minister of Social Affairs and Employment
Mr. Koolmees has been called the inventor of the cabinet’s budget, which is not surprising after years of service in the Ministry of Finance. He was influential in the Rutte I and II governments negotiating with the opposition on a variety of issues.
Rounding out the 24 members of the Rutte III cabinet are:
• Sander Dekker (VVD) Minister for Public Security
• Bruno Bruins (VVD) Minister for Health Care
• Sigrid Kaag (D66) Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
• Arie Slog (CU) Minister for Primary Education, Secondary Education and Communication
• Raymond Knops (CDA) State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations
• Menno Snel (D66) State Secretary for the Ministry of Finance
• Mark Harbers (VVD) State Secretary for Justice and Security
• Barbara Visser (VVD) State Secretary for Defense
• Mona Keijzer (CDA) State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate
• Stientje van Veldhoven (D66) State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management
• Tamara van Ark (VVD) State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment
• Paul Blokhuis (CU) State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport