New Dutch Cabinet expected by the summer
In their first press conference about forming a new ruling coalition to govern the Netherlands, the two "pathfinders" or "scouts" appointed to get the process underway said they were aiming to have a new Cabinet in place before the summer. The first meeting between the scouts, Annemarie Jorritsma of the VVD and Kajsa Ollongren of D66, and the leaders of those parties which might be asked to join in a coalition will take place on Monday.
Meetings with party leaders will take place one by one, and with one representative per party due to coronavirus restrictions. As talks heat up, meeting spaces will be adjusted to accommodate negotiations involving more people.
The goal is to form a coalition quickly to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the vaccination process, and then the economic recovery, Jorritsma said. Still, the start of summer is about three months away, but it took 208 days to form Rutte's third Cabinet together after the 2017 elections took place.
Jorritsma said that the situation was complex even though there were two clear winners in the election. Prime Minister Mark Rutte's VVD is currently projected to take 35 of 150 seats in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, while D66, led by Sigrid Kaag, is projected to take 23 seats. The ballots were still being counted on Thursday afternoon, a day after voting wrapped up.
The appointment of the two scouts was announced by the leader of the Tweede Kamer, Khadija Arib, on Thursday. They will submit their first report to the lower house about progress made on March 30, with a debate set for the following day in front of the newly elected parliamentarians.
Jorritsma also leads the VVD in the Eerste Kamer, the upper house of Dutch parliament. She has spent most of the past 40 years in politics, including time as the Deputy Prime Minister to Wim Kok's second Cabinet, his Minister of Economic Affairs, and twice as the Mayor of Almere.
Ollongren served as a Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations in the outgoing third Cabinet of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. She has been a politician since 2014 and spent the preceding 20 years as a senior official at the Ministries of General Affairs and Economic Affairs.
Neither Ollongren nor Jorritsma has held the role of a scout during a Cabinet formation, though Ollongren served as a clerk during the formation of Rutte's first Cabinet when she worked at the Ministry of General Affairs. "A large majority" of party leaders were "fine" with the selection of the two scouts, Arib said.