US News Mark Rutte well placed for a new term in the Netherlands

08:57  15 march  2021
08:57  15 march  2021 Source:   pressfrom.com

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NETHERLANDS-ELECTION: Mark Rutte well placed for a new term in the Netherlands


by Toby Sterling and Stephanie van den Berg

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the liberal VVD party appears to be in a position to be reappointed for another four-year term in parliamentary elections which start on Monday and will run over three days in the Netherlands.

The management of the coronavirus epidemic by his government has become one of the big issues of the poll, and Mark Rutte is at the top of opinion polls.

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The vote will be spread over three days in order to respect the social distancing standards put in place to curb the epidemic, with the Netherlands having banned gatherings of more than two people and imposed the closure of restaurants and bars, as well as the first nighttime curfew since WWII.

A majority of voters reluctantly support the restrictions put in place.

In this context of health crisis, Rutte presents himself as "someone reliable and I think that speaks to a large group of voters", says Rem Korteweg, analyst at the Clingendael Institute, a think tank based in The Hague.

Rutte, 54, has led the Dutch government since 2010, making him one of the oldest European leaders in office.

Despite some blunders in the government's response to the health crisis, such as the about-face on the wearing of masks in public places and the slowness of the deployment of the vaccination campaign, voters recognize Rutte's merit for having managed to keep a sufficient number of hospital beds available during the two waves of the epidemic.

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Rutte's government has been managing day-to-day affairs since last January after presenting his resignation as a whole because of a social aid scandal.

Three polls published this week give the VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), Rutte's party, with 24-26% of the vote, while the Freedom Party (PVV) of populist Geert Wilders, the leading party opposition, is credited with 11 and 14% of the voting intentions.

For the first time in two decades, immigration, a favorite theme of the PVV, was not at the heart of electoral debates. Health crisis requires, Geert Wilders has focused his campaign on the need to increase health spending and support for small businesses.

The opposition leader criticized the implementation of the night curfew, strongly contested to the point of triggering violent demonstrations after its establishment on January 23.

The government announced last week the extension of this controversial measure until March 31.

The police dispersed Sunday evening in The Hague, using water cannons and batons, a crowd of several thousand people demonstrating against the containment measures.

(French version Diana Mandiá, edited by Jean-Stéphane Brosse)

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