Dutch vote amid strict coronavirus lockdown

A man casts his vote from his car at a polling station during the Dutch parliamentary elections 2021 on March 15, 2021 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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Dutch voters went to a general election on Monday is largely viewed as a referendum on how the government is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Acting and caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) are expected to win a fourth term, despite scandals and accusations of mistreating the pandemic ravaging his party.

The three voting days began on Monday morning and end on Wednesday evening. The vote was distributed due to the ongoing public health crisis.

Opinion polls show that VVD is ahead in terms of voter popularity, despite being led by the far-right nationalist opposition freedom party, led by controversial figure Geert Wilders.

Four polls released last week predicted that Rutte’s VVD party could win between 30 and 40 seats in parliament, compared to polls that show the Wilders’ Freedom Party could win 19 to 24 seats. The Christian Democratic Appellate Party receives the third highest number of seats that is expected to win 15-19 seats.

As the polls suggest, the VVD is unlikely to get enough seats to rule in the 150-seat parliament alone, the House of Representatives, making another coalition government a likely outcome.

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

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

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In addition to the pandemic, Ruttes VVD has had some turbulent months behind it. A recent child benefit scandal that falsely charged thousands of families with child welfare fraud resulted in the entire government resigning en masse in January.

Rutte has held a janitorial role since then and remains a popular politician despite some unpopular restrictions put in place during the pandemic. It is widely predicted that he will head a fourth cabinet, although the composition of an expected coalition remains uncertain.

What could affect the vote

Capital Economics European economist Melanie Debono warned in a note last week that the formation of a coalition government could take even longer than the previous record of 225 days, although she noted that it was unlikely to have any economic impact.

“In the Dutch multi-party system, however, the VVD will not manage to rule on its own, and more fragmentation than usual means that coalition formation can take longer than the record of 225 days in 2017! Such dead ends, however, rarely had much of an impact the economy. The VVD advocates higher minimum wages and lower taxes for full-time employees. While some of these plans are watered down if the reality of coalition politics bites, other parties also advocate supportive fiscal policies. “

The Netherlands is one of the larger and more prosperous economies in the EU and did not do as badly as others during the pandemic. The Dutch economy contracted 4% in 2020 compared to the 6.8% decline in the eurozone.

Economists largely attribute this This better-than-feared economic contraction of the country’s less severe initial lockdown last spring, its export-oriented economy, and the fact that it is not as dependent on tourism – – a sector that collapsed during the pandemic.

“”The Dutch economy performed relatively well in 2020, “stated Debono.” After expanding in the fourth quarter (the fourth quarter), it ended the year closer to its pre-crisis levels than the other major economies. The downturn was small as the initial lockdown wasn’t as severe as elsewhere, the Dutch were already more used to working from home, and tourism makes up a relatively small part of the economy. “

However, the government’s stance on the lockdown changed over the winter when cases increased dramatically, prompting the government to implement a strict lockdown (by Dutch standards) in January. The tougher measures, including a night curfew, sparked unrest in parts of the country.

The riot police cleared a protest against the lockdown in Museumplein on February 28, 2021 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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Like its neighbors, the Netherlands has seen an increase in Covid infections in recent weeks, largely due to the spread of more virulent variants of the virus.

In addition to its troubles, the Netherlands was one of the last countries in the bloc to initiate its coronavirus vaccination program, and vaccinations have been slow.

The vaccination program will undoubtedly continue to be hampered after the Netherlands (as well as a number of other countries) decided to discontinue vaccinations with AstraZeneca / University of Oxford because of concerns about possible side effects, despite the World Health Organization claiming no link between the shot and an increased one Risk of developing blood clots.

Bars, restaurants and fitness studios are closed, while non-essential shops were only allowed to reopen to a limited number of customers by prior arrangement in early March. From March 16, stores can reopen to a limited number of customers as long as there is space between them. The curfew – 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, the anti-lockdown mood continues as riot police use a water cannon to break up an anti-lockdown demonstration in The Hague this weekend. This recent lockdown means the country’s economy is unlikely to suffer a decline in the first quarter.

“Although the government started easing the lockdown on March 3rd, many businesses will be closed for two-thirds of the first quarter (the first quarter) and others, such as restaurants. But the Netherlands is still comparatively well positioned and, as elsewhere, the GDP. ” Growth should recover from the second quarter, “said Debono of Capital Economics.

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