1708685312 Rutte39s possible departure at the top of NATO increases political

Rutte's possible departure at the top of NATO increases political uncertainty in the Netherlands | International

Rutte39s possible departure at the top of NATO increases political

NATO is looking for a new Secretary General and Mark Rutte, incumbent Prime Minister of the Netherlands since the last elections on November 22nd, is the main (and for now only) candidate to succeed Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg, whose term ends on October 1st ends. The Dutchman has many options, but negotiations over a new coalition in his country have stalled. If NATO approves his appointment without there already being a Dutch government, the problem would be political: there is no precedent in the country's recent history for a head of the executive branch to take office under these conditions and with the instability they entail laid down.

Rutte is gathering support to replace Stoltenberg. Only the Dutch politician has openly run for office and enjoys the support of a good majority of the alliance's 31 members, including three heavyweights: France, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, the decision is unanimous and Hungary and Turkey have not yet reached an agreement.

“We are facing an unprecedented situation in the recent political history of the Netherlands because no prime minister has ever resigned from office before another was appointed,” explains Ingrid Leijten, professor of constitutional law at Tilburg University, by telephone. “It does not look like there will be a new coalition in the Netherlands soon, so it is possible that when Rutte moves to Brussels, he will do so as part of a transitional government,” he added.

“It will not be a legal problem as the Council of Ministers can appoint a new prime minister without Parliament having to intervene,” explains Leijten. It is possible that another minister – probably from Rutte's party, the right-wing liberals VVD – will take his place. “But the real basic problem is the long process of coalition building,” comments the professor. “Dutch governments fall quite easily, and with so many parties represented in parliament, it is difficult to reach an agreement quickly.” It is a complex process with no rules setting “a deadline for concluding an agreement.” It is not specified that the party with the most votes has to be in government or that “or that the prime minister belongs to this winning group,” Leijten adds.

Although an incumbent Dutch government cannot make controversial or far-reaching decisions, it does not ignore the urgency of the current international situation. “The problem of a possible departure of Rutte to the alliance will be political and not constitutional,” confirms political scientist Tom van der Meer from the University of Amsterdam. In his opinion, the figure of the Prime Minister has become more important in recent decades, “particularly due to the weight of the European Union”. Hence its growing visibility. Rutte announced his retirement from politics in July 2023 after the fourth consecutive coalition he had led since 2010 collapsed. He said he would not stand for re-election and might opt ​​for teaching. After a period of relative silence, his name started making the rounds in Brussels thanks to his negotiating skills. He had not closed the door to such a position.

Negotiations to form a new executive in the Netherlands have returned to square one after almost three months of failed meetings between the four right-wing formations – including the extreme one led by Geert Wilders, the election winner – and have received more votes. A new mediator has been appointed and has four weeks to sound out to all parties what type of coalition they prefer. At the Dutch national level, Van der Meer suggests that it is not so much about whether Wilders becomes prime minister. “It is possible that it will be agreed that the leaders of the parties that agree on this will remain in Parliament without appearing in the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister could then be an external professional figure,” he emphasizes.

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Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg's mandate officially ends in October, although NATO wants an earlier appointment, perhaps separating him from key EU positions – such as Commission presidency – which will be decided between July and October.

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