Dutch voters go amid lockdown

A man brings his vote out of his car during a polling station during the Dutch election in 2021 on March 15, 2021 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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The vote continues on Tuesday in the Netherlands in a general election that is largely seen as a referendum on the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The current president, Mark Rutte, and his center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) are expected to win a fourth term in office, although his party is shocked by scandals and accusations that he mismanaged the pandemic.

The three-day vote began Monday morning and ends Wednesday night, with the vote dispersed due to the ongoing public health crisis.

Opinion polls show that the VVD is in the forefront when it comes to the popularity of the electorate, although it is followed by the opposition right-wing, nationalist party for freedom, led by the controversial figure Geert Wilders.

Four polls published last week predicts that Rutte’s VVD party can take between 30 and 40 seats in parliament, compared to polls showing that Wilders’ Freedom Party can win 19-24 seats. The Christian Democratic Appeal party is seen to have won the third highest number of seats, which is expected to win 15-19 seats.

As the polls suggest, the VVD is unlikely to get enough seats to govern alone in the 150-seat parliament, the House of Representatives, which another coalition government is likely to make.

It may not be that simple; in 2017, it took 225 days for the VVD to form a coalition government with three other parties (the Christian Democratic Appeal, Democrats 66 and the Christian Union) – the longest time to form a coalition in Dutch history.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives on his bicycle in front of the Council of Ministers at the Binnenhof in The Hague.

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Rutte’s VVD went through a turbulent few months, apart from the pandemic. A recent scandal surrounding child benefit payments in which thousands of families are wrongly accused of child welfare fraud has led the entire government to resign en masse in January.

Rutte has since remained in a caretaker role and remains a popular politician despite some unpopularity restrictions implemented during the pandemic. It is widely predicted that he will lead a fourth cabinet, although the composition of an expected coalition remains uncertain.

What can affect the mood

Capital Economics, Europe Economist, Melanie Debono, warned in a note last week that the formation of a coalition government could take even longer than the last record of 225 days, although she noted that it was unlikely to have an impact on the economy. have.

“In the Dutch multi-party system, however, the VVD will not rule alone and greater fragmentation than usual means that the formation of a coalition can take longer than the record of 225 days in 2017! But such impasses rarely have a major impact on the economy. “The VVD is pushing for a higher minimum wage and lower taxes for full-time workers. Although some of these plans will eventually be watered down when the reality of coalition politics bites, other parties are also advocating supportive fiscal policy.”

The Netherlands is one of the EU’s larger and more prosperous economies and it did not fare so badly during the pandemic. The Dutch economy shrank by 4% in 2020, compared with the 6.8% contraction of the wider eurozone.

Economists largely attribute this better-than-expected economic performance for the country’s less stringent first exclusion last spring, its export – oriented economy and the fact that it is not so dependent on tourism a sector that collapsed during the pandemic.

The Dutch economy performed relatively well in 2020, ‘Debono remarked,’ and after expanding in the fourth quarter, it ended the year closer to pre – crisis level than the other major economies. The downturn was shallow because the first closure was not as strict as elsewhere, Dutch people were more accustomed to working from home and tourism is a relatively small part of the economy. ‘

However, the attitude of the government towards the closure changed during the winter, as matters increased dramatically, which led the government to apply a strict closure (according to Dutch standards) in January. The stricter measures, including a night clock, have caused riots in parts of the country.

Riots police see a protest against the closure on Museum Square in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 28 February 2021.

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Like its neighbors, the Netherlands has seen an increase in Covid infections in recent weeks, which can be mainly attributed to the spread of more virulent variants of the virus.

In addition to its problems, the Netherlands was one of the last countries in the bloc to start its coronavirus vaccination program, and the vaccinations were slow.

The vaccination program will undoubtedly be further hindered following the decision of the Netherlands (as well as a number of other countries) to suspend vaccinations with the AstraZeneca / University of Oxford. about concerns about possible side effects, although the World Health Organization said there was no link between the shot and an increased risk of developing blood clots.

Bars, restaurants and gyms were closed, while non-essential shops were allowed to reopen to a limited number of customers in early March. From March 16, stores will again be allowed to a limited number of customers, provided there is enough space between them. The curfew rule – the first since the Nazi occupation in World War II – is expected to last until the end of March. Public gatherings of more than two people are also prohibited.

Meanwhile, anti-lockdown sentiment continues with riot police using a water cannon over the weekend to break up an anti-lockdown demonstration in The Hague. This latest exclusion means that the country’s economy is unlikely to shrink in the first quarter.

“Although the government has begun to facilitate the exclusion from 3rd In March, many businesses will be closed for two-thirds of the first quarter (the first quarter), and others, for example, restaurants, throughout. “But the Netherlands is still in a relatively good position and, as elsewhere, GDP growth will have to recover from the second quarter,” said Debono of Capital Economics.

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