Rutte Finalizing New Dutch Cabinet After Record-Long Coalition Talks

  • Premier is aiming for ministers to be sworn in on Oct. 26
  • Names of politicians circling for key positions in government

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has started on the final step in what’s already been the longest ever process of forming a new government in the Netherlands: assembling the team of ministers that will make up his third cabinet.

The administration to be known as Rutte III will have 16 cabinet ministers -- six from the premier’s own Liberals, four each from the Christian Democrats and the progressive centrist D66 party and the remaining two from the small Christian Union, under a coalition deal sealed by chief negotiator Gerrit Zalm earlier this month. There will be another eight junior ministers. One cabinet member from each of the three smaller partners will also act as deputy prime minister, according to Dutch media reports.

Mark Rutte

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The question now is who Rutte, a former human-resources manager at Unilever, will pick for the ministerial roles. The rumor mill will no doubt continue to spin for as long as Rutte, 50, is crafting his team, with the Liberal leader saying he’s aiming for the new cabinet to be ready on Oct. 26. None of the heads of the three other parties will be in the government -- the Christian Democrats’ Sybrand Buma, D66’s Alexander Pechtold and the CU’s Gert-Jan Segers have all said they will keep their seats in parliament instead. Unlike in the U.K. for example, Dutch ministers have to relinquish their seats in the legislature.

A key cabinet position is that of finance minister, succeeding Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Labor politician who has said he won’t stay in parliament after finishing his stint as Eurogroup chairman in January. Labor suffered the biggest drop in support in the March election, losing 29 of its 38 seats.

In Dutch politics, the finance minister’s job traditionally goes to the second-largest party in the coalition. Both the Christian Democrats, known as the CDA in Dutch, and D66 won 19 seats in the March elections; however, the CDA took more votes, with 12.4% of the total, ahead of D66’s 12.2%.

CDA senator and deputy chairman Wopke Hoekstra, a 42-year-old who’s also a McKinsey & Co. consultant, is the CDA’s lead candidate for the role, the newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad reported last week.

Eric Wiebes

Photographer: Martijn Beekman/AFP via Getty Images

Deputy Finance Minister Eric Wiebes, 54, is expected to take the post of economic affairs and climate minister, a new larger role mirroring the government’s expanded environment plans, De Telegraaf reported Monday. Halbe Zijlstra, 48 and like Wiebes a Liberal, will become foreign minister, the newspaper said.  

Earlier media reports linked D66’s Kajsa Ollongren, 50, currently the deputy mayor in Amsterdam, to the economic affairs portfolio, though the newspaper Algemeen Dagblad said Tuesday that she could become interior minister. Between 2011 and 2014, Ollongren was secretary-general, the most senior civil servant, at Rutte’s Ministry of General Affairs. Ollongren has also been identified by Dutch media as one of the three deputy prime ministers.

The four coalition parties are expected to compile the final list of names Friday evening, with Rutte holding meetings with the future government members starting Saturday, according to another newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad.

Whoever lands a post in Rutte’s team, one thing is certain: their job will be the result of a record-breaking effort. On Oct. 10, the process of forming the coalition had taken 209 days, breaking the barrier set in 1977 for the longest coalition talks since World War II. That’s about three times as long as the postwar average of 72 days.

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