Run-up to Dutch elections underway as cabinet kicks off final year

On Tuesday the Dutch cabinet unofficially kicked off the start of the new political season with their traditional get-together, this year in Leiden. The ministers traditionally use this after-summer-break meeting to freely discuss the coming year without agenda, the Volkskrant reports. 

Last year, in Wassenaar, the focus of the discussion lay with the refugee crisis, which threatened to cleave the VVD-PvdA coalition apart. By the end of the meeting the government had come up with the "sober but fair" motto for the reception of asylum seekers, keeping the cabinet together.

This year the approaching election is definitely casting a shadow. But both Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) and Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher urged the cabinet to try and defuse campaign fever for now and keep working together as a cabinet until the last day.

"Everyone has the ambition to keep working until the last day", Rutte said. "We go on. We continue to cooperate. That's really the deal we have." Asscher added: "We must not blind ourselves with the elections in seven months. We must look at the things that really matter now." According to bot ministers, there is more than enough work to be done before election time.

The Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, is still on recess for a few week. But from Thursday the cabinet will be starting budget councils, discussing the budgets for all departments.

According to the Volkskrant, the pressure is on the VVD to push more money into Defense and the police, especially after recent terrorist attacks in Europe. The PvdA already agreed to push extra money into health care and improving purchasing power for the elderly and people on welfare.