Coronavirus outbreak, resignations interrupt Dutch coalition talks

Coalition talks in the Netherlands were interrupted on Thursday following a coronavirus outbreak and resignations among the team coordinating the negotiations.

The two politicians leading the talks — Kajsa Ollongren, of the liberal-left D66 party, and Annemarie Jorritsma, of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) — quit after Ollongren was photographed carrying notes with some confidential information on the negotiations. 

The talks had been suspended earlier on Thursday after Ollongren, who served as interior minister in Rutte’s outgoing administration, tested positive for the coronavirus and had to leave the parliamentary complex in The Hague.

The photographed notes included comments on the position of Pieter Omtzigt, a senior lawmaker with the Christian Democrats (CDA), who had a big role in exposing the childcare benefit scandal that forced Rutte’s previous government to resign. CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra quickly responded, saying that none of the topics listed in the notes had been part of his talks with the negotiators. 

Ollongren and Jorritsma said in a statement that “the notes that came into view were preliminary inventory notes for the negotiators that were to be discussed this morning and were intended as preliminary input for the next round in the exploratory phase.”

The statement said that the notes “were not direct representations of the conversations already held and have not yet been discussed with any of the [party] negotiators,” and added: “Nonetheless, both scouts note that with the coming out of these notes, they can no longer continue their work in an unfettered and unbiased manner.”

On Thursday afternoon, the speaker of the parliament announced that outgoing Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark, of the VVD, and outgoing Social Affairs Minister Wouter Koolmees, of D66, would take over their duties.

Prior to her positive test result, Ollongren had met with several other party leaders and lawmakers in recent days as part of the negotiations. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s test result on Wednesday was negative, his office said.

In this month’s general election, Rutte’s liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) party once again won the largest share of parliamentary seats, while D66 came in second place.

This article has been updated.



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