Dutch king to swear in new ruling coalition, Rutte's 4th

AP , Monday 10 Jan 2022

Dutch King Willem-Alexander is swearing in a new ruling coalition Monday, led for the fourth time by Mark Rutte, amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown and policy challenges ranging from climate change to housing shortages to the future of agriculture.

King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte sign the Royal Decrees, as part of the inauguration of the new Mark Rutte s IV cabinet, at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague, on January 10, 2022. AFP

The ceremony at the Noordeinde Palace in The Hague comes following a record-breaking coalition formation process following a general election on March 17 last year that laid bare deep divisions in the splintered Dutch political landscape.

Rutte, 54, has already led three coalitions and is now set to become the Netherlands' longest serving prime minister despite only narrowly surviving a no-confidence motion in parliament in April.

The swearing in of the new government also comes almost a year to the day since Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned to accept political responsibility for a scandal involving the nation's tax office wrongly labeling as fraudsters thousands of parents who claimed childcare benefits.

Even so, Rutte will lead a coalition made up of the same four parties that quit to end his third term. His fourth administration is made up of Rutte's conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, together with the centrist, pro-European D66, the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal and centrist Christian Union. Together, they command a narrow majority in the 150-seat lower house of Dutch parliament, but are in the minority in the upper house.

For the first time in Dutch political history, half of the senior Cabinet ministers are women. In a sign of the pandemic times, one of them, D66 leader Sigrid Kaag, took part in the swearing in via a video link as she is isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.

``It's a slightly different start than I'd hoped for, but I am going to begin full of energy,'' Kaag tweeted Sunday.

In a policy blueprint published late last year, the new government outlined plans to cut taxes, offer almost free childcare for working parents, bring back grants for higher education students and a plan to build about 100,000 new homes each year.

The ambitious agenda will cost billions in this country long known for its fiscal frugality.

The new coalition also has vowed to work to win back public trust in government that has been eroded by scandals, polarization, frustration in parts of society at measures to tackle the pandemic and at the drawn-out coalition negotiations.

Rutte said the coalition would seek to work together with ``society and with our political colleagues'' in parliament to implement reforms.

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