Dutch Prime Minister Wins a Fourth Time period as a Coronavirus Third Wave Looms

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LEIDEN, the Netherlands — Mark Rutte, certainly one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, noticed his Social gathering for Freedom and Democracy win huge in Dutch elections on Wednesday, setting him up for a fourth time period as prime minister of the Netherlands.

“We’ve to carry this nation again to the place it needs to be, as top-of-the-line performing international locations on the planet,” Mr. Rutte mentioned in a televised victory speech. “I’ve sufficient power for even 10 extra years.”

Mr. Rutte, who describes his social gathering as “center-right,” should now kind a coalition with different events to acquire a majority in Parliament. D66, a liberal-democratic social gathering led by the previous United Nations diplomat Sigrid Kaag, got here in second in an enormous win. Mr. Rutte and Ms. Kaag are set to guide talks over forming a brand new authorities.

Mr. Rutte’s social gathering gained three seats as in contrast with comparable elections in 2017, in keeping with exit polls printed by the general public broadcaster NOS on Wednesday

Mr. Rutte and his cupboard had resigned in January over a scandal involving the tax authorities’ concentrating on of individuals, largely poor, who had made administrative errors of their requests for little one advantages. Many have been ruined financially after being pressured to pay again advantages to which that they had been entitled.

The scandal didn’t play a big position in the course of the marketing campaign, nonetheless, nor did Mr. Rutte’s wavering polices for coping with the coronavirus. He and his cupboard stayed on in a caretaker position till the election with a purpose to handle the pandemic response.

“This has been a corona election, and most of these in energy have been rewarded,” mentioned Tom-Jan Meeus, a political columnist for NRC Handelsblad. He mentioned the dispersed wins by a number of right-wing events mixed didn’t transcend their ordinary threshold of about 18 p.c.

“These elections are a victory for events within the political center, no change for the novel proper and a loss for the left,” he added.

Mr. Meeus mentioned that he didn’t count on huge shifts in coverage, “however there will probably be extra strain on Mark Rutte to have extra pro-European insurance policies, from the events he has to control with.”

Ms. Kaag, a profession diplomat who speaks a number of languages together with Arabic, is a staunch supporter of the European Union, as is her social gathering. She served within the outgoing cupboard as minister of worldwide commerce and growth.

Final Could, Mr. Rutte led a gaggle of countries that refused blank-check funds for southern European international locations to help their economies in the course of the pandemic. He’ll now be pressured to compromise on such stances if he enters right into a coalition with D66.

Voters within the Netherlands had solid their ballots in one of many first main European elections to happen in the course of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept throughout the continent in successive waves.

Neighboring Germany can also be coming into a packed election season, with nationwide and state votes coming in a 12 months that may carry to an finish the 16-year chancellorship of Angela Merkel.

Geert Wilders, a populist who has opposed immigration from Muslim international locations and referred to as for a ban of the Quran, noticed his Social gathering for Freedom lose two seats, although it remained the third largest.

One other right-wing social gathering, the Discussion board voor Democratie, led by Thierry Baudet, on the peak of its reputation appeared able to win 26 seats, in keeping with opinion polls taken in 2019, however public infighting led some outstanding politicians to depart and begin their very own social gathering. Mr. Baudet’s social gathering gained six new seats for a complete of eight, in keeping with exit polls late Wednesday.

The elections are amongst of the primary to happen in Europe because the coronavirus broke out final spring, sparking repeated lockdowns throughout the continent because the dying toll grew. Portugal voted in presidential elections in January, re-electing the center-right Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for a second time period in workplace.

The pandemic has modified the standard dynamic of organizing elections within the Netherlands, however didn’t appear to have an effect on turnout on Wednesday. Lengthy traces of socially distanced voters stood ready within the early afternoon within the historic middle of Leiden, a college city close to The Hague. At many polling stations voters have been allowed to take dwelling the crimson pencils they used to solid their ballots, a measure to assist forestall the virus from spreading.

“There isn’t any approach anybody can get corona with all these measures,” mentioned Niels Romijn, a civil servant, as he entered a public library to solid his poll. “All people was tremendous chill,” he mentioned, fortunately displaying off his free crimson pencil. “Civil responsibility,” he mentioned with amusing.

Polling stations had been open nationwide since Monday to permit weak voters to keep away from crowds. Voters over 70 have been inspired to vote by mail. And campaigning primarily happened on tv, making it exhausting for voters to spontaneously confront politicians as is typical follow within the Netherlands.

Coronavirus circumstances are as soon as once more surging within the Netherlands, prompting the authorities to warn of a 3rd wave. Final 12 months, it took Mr. Rutte’s authorities till November to ramp up testing, and now, the vaccination course of has been advancing slowly.

Nonetheless, native points, not the federal government’s dealing with of the coronavirus, dominated the election marketing campaign.

Broader insurance policies put ahead by Mr. Rutte, who has been in energy since 2010, have been additionally a deal with the marketing campaign path, with opponents questioning his authorities’s repeated cutbacks in well being care, policing and different important providers.

Mr. Rutte has dominated out any type of cooperation with Mr. Wilders’ Freedom Social gathering, that means that he’ll probably have to interact with different events. Wednesday’s vote brings a report of 17 events to the 150-seat Dutch parliament.

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