Strategic observation

News Analysis: Dutch new coalition gov't faces challenges to keep solid

2017-10-13 03:53:35 (Beijing Time)         English.news.cn

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THE HAGUE, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- With just one seat majority in both houses of parliament, the new Dutch four-party coalition led by Prime minister Mark Rutte may struggle to keep solid and promote its political agenda, political experts warned.

"The coalition deal reflects the Dutch political landscape marked by fragmentation and polarization. It involves elements connecting all four parties, but it is not an overarching agreement capable of bridging the differences among the four partners," said Floris Vermeulen, chair of the department of political science at the University of Amsterdam.

"These differences represent big challenges as all four parties will find it difficult to face fierce criticism from the opposition parties from both sides of the political spectrum, right and left," he said.

In a similar tone, Ben Crum, professor of political theory at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, warned that even in a country used to governing by consensus, the new coalition could prove an uneasy and vulnerable marriage. "The four parties will have to strike a series of compromises, and it might not always be successful."

After 209 days of record-long formation, a coalition deal was reached earlier this week among Rutte's rightist liberals VVD, the progressive democrats D66, the conservative CDA and the smaller ChristenUnie. Rutte will head his third government since 2010.

For Vermeulen, in the 56-page deal entitled "Confidence in the Future", the most striking example reflecting the differences among the four parties lies in climate. "The program sets ambitious energy and climate targets which are not all shared by the four parties involved."

Higher taxes for polluters and shutdown of all five coal-fired energy plants by 2030 in order to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 49 percent by the same year, are mostly supported by D66 and ChristenUnie while opposed by members of VVD and CDA, Vermeulen explained.

According to Paul Teule, lecturer of Political Economy at the University of Amsterdam, the four party leaders have decided to keep their members on check by remaining at the helm of their parliamentary groups. Rutte is the only one to be part of the cabinet. Sybrand Buma of CDA, Alexander Pechtold of D66 and Gert-Jan Segers of ChristenUnie will remain in the lower house to maintain party discipline.

More challenging for the coalition, which has the smallest possible majority -- 76 out of the 150 seats in the lower house, are the local elections of March next year, said Vermeulen.

"Party performance on the local elections might prove to be crucial for keeping the four parties together," he added.

However, observers did see a crucial factor which could help make the new cabinet stable.

"The economy is doing well in stark contrast to the economic crisis that the previous governments had to deal with," said Joris Larik, senior researcher at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

The main message of the coalition deal was that the Dutch people will get a better life in the forthcoming four years. That message was supported by figures of the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis on Tuesday.

According to the CPB, the government package leads to a gross domestic product (GDP) rise of 2.0 percent on average in the period 2018-2021, with a 0.2 percent positive effect of the government measures.