Photographer: Klug Photo/Getty Images

Dutch King Swears In Premier Rutte’s Third Coalition Government

  • Process to form cabinet took longest time since World War II
  • Government plans lower corporate taxes, higher VAT rate

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands swore in Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s third cabinet Thursday, finally bringing an official end to what’s been a record-breaking process of putting together a coalition government in the country.

The cabinet was formally inaugurated by the king at the Noordeinde palace in The Hague, a ceremony followed by the traditional photograph of the monarch and the ministers—including new finance minister Wopke Hoekstra—on the steps of the building.

The administration known as Rutte III has 16 cabinet members—six from the premier’s Liberal VVD party, four each from the Christian Democrats and the progressive centrist D66 and the remaining two from the Christian Union, under a coalition deal sealed earlier this month. There are another eight junior ministers. One cabinet member from each of the three smaller partners will also act as deputy prime minister.

Read more: The Dutch Are Doing Just Fine Without a Government

Rutte, 50, will lead the four-party government that took more than 220 days to form, the longest since World War II, following March’s inconclusive general election that left the Dutch political landscape splintered. The parties reached an agreement on coalition policy on Oct. 10, after which Rutte was given the task of assembling his government team.

The four coalition partners plan to push through a range of measures, including lowering the 25 percent corporate-tax rate to 21 percent as of 2021, abolishing the dividend tax, reducing the number of income-tax brackets to two and raising the lowest value-added tax rate to 9 percent from 6 percent. 

The parties also agreed to close all coal-fired power plants by 2030 at the latest, while the cabinet is also seeking to speed up the reduction of a tax break for homeowners on mortgage interest payments. The premier has called the plans “ambitious and balanced.”

Rutte’s party has 33 lawmakers following the March 15 elections, making it the largest in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, even though it lost seats. The Christian Democrats and D66 each have 19 and the Christian Union five—giving the four parties 76 seats, the smallest possible majority. 

In the elections, Geert Wilders’s anti-Islam Freedom Party added five seats to give it 20, making it the second-largest party.

Four Key Roles in Rutte’s New Cabinet

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister

Mark Rutte

Born: Feb. 14, 1967 in The Hague
Party: VVD
Career: In 1992, after graduating with a degree in Dutch history from Leiden University, he started working at Unilever as a human resources manager. He became deputy minister at the Social Affairs and Employment ministry in 2002 in the first coalition cabinet led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. Rutte became premier in October 2010.
Last job: Prime minister of the Netherlands
Anything else? He is unmarried
Twitter: @MinPres

Wopke Hoekstra, Finance Minister

Wopke Hoekstra

Born: Sept. 30, 1975 in Bennekom in the province of Gelderland
Party: CDA
Career: He studied Dutch law in Leiden between 1994 and 2001, and added an MBA from business school INSEAD in 2005. He joined Royal Dutch Shell in 2002, before becoming a consultant at McKinsey in 2006. Since June 2011, he has been a member of the First Chamber, the upper house of the Dutch parliament; and he was author of his party’s program for the March 2017 general elections.
Last job: Partner at McKinsey, member of the Senate
Anything else? In 2015, he co-authored the McKinsey report “Tax myths: Dispelling myths about tax transformation in rapidly growing economies”

Eric Wiebes, Economics Affairs and Climate Minister

Eric Wiebes

Born: March 12, 1963 in Delft
Party: VVD
Career: After majoring in energy supply at the Delft University of Technology, he joined Royal Dutch Shell as an energy engineer in 1987. In 1991, he received his MBA from business school INSEAD. He started working at the ministry of Economic Affairs in 2004 and moved to become an alderman in Amsterdam in 2010.
Last job: Deputy minister at the Finance ministry in Rutte’s second cabinet
Anything else? Like Hoekstra, Wiebes has also worked at Shell and McKinsey

Halbe Zijlstra, Foreign Affairs Minister

Halbe Zijlstra

Born: Jan. 21, 1969 in Ooststellingwerf 
Party: VVD
Career: Born in the province of Friesland, he studied sociology at university in the neighbouring province of Groningen. After two stints as a member of the municipal council in the city of Utrecht he became a member of parliament in 2006. Between 2010 and 2012 he was deputy minister for Education, Culture and Science in Rutte’s first government.
Last job: Leading the VVD party in the lower house of Dutch parliament
Anything else? He strives for “a small government that interferes with the lives of people at little as possible,” according to his CV
Twitter: @HalbeZijlstra

— With assistance by Hayley Warren

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