Rutte: I made coronavirus policy mistakes; King can help speed up Cabinet formation
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged making errors recently during in his traditional Christmas interview with De Telegraaf. He told the newspaper that the Netherlands should have started its Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign earlier, and that the measures taken by the caretaker Cabinet in November to contain the pandemic were not tough enough. The Netherlands is now in a lockdown partly because of this, he said in the interview published on Friday. He also again noted that he made errors in his communication about the pandemic.
When asked about the plummeting confidence the public has in the Cabinet’s coronavirus policy, Rutte concluded that people are fed up with living under restrictions, but also admitted that is an explanation which is too convenient. "I made mistakes, in communication," he confesses.
"In the beginning I put too much emphasis on people's own responsibility and not enough on the mandatory measures. The second is that I did not succeed in convincing people to a sufficient extent about the basic measures." The basic measures in the Netherlands include practicing good hygiene, maintaining a safe physical distance from others, staying home and getting tested when Covid-19 symptoms arise, and properly ventilating indoor spaces.
In the interview, Rutte also discussed the Cabinet formation process over the past nine months, making it the longest in parliamentary history. According to Rutte, it has taken too long. "What I don't think has helped is that the king has been removed from the formation process," said the prime minister. In 2012, the role the king played as Head of State during Cabinet formations was handed over to the Tweede Kamer, the lower House of Parliament. "It is not the case that the formation suddenly takes three months less if you bring the king back, but it would help," Rutte said.
The long formation, the coronavirus policy and the tax office benefits scandal have eroded public confidence in politics, Rutte admitted. He does not have a ready-made solution for this.
"It is impossible to reinvent yourself, like a kind of snake shedding your skin. I don't believe in that at all," he told De Telegraaf.
Reporting by ANP