THE HAGUE, Oct 31 — Liberal Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has confirmed he will seek a fourth term in office, wanting to continue steering the Netherlands through the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is my conviction that I have the ideas and the energy to continue,” Rutte told the popular daily tabloid De Telegraaf in an interview published Saturday.
“I want to lead through this enormous ordeal,” said Rutte, 53, who has been at the helm for a decade.
His People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) also confirmed his candidacy with a statement from Rutte on its website saying “I want to be prime: minister for one more time.”
Dutch elections are set for March 17 next year.
Rutte’s VVD party is streaks ahead in the opinion polls, with the latest by Ipsos giving it 42 seats in the 150-seat Lower House of parliament.
The closest to the VVD is the far-right Freedom Party of anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders with 20 seats, followed by the Christian Democrats with 17.
Rutte has won a reputation as a steady hand in governing the Netherlands over the last 10 years, as well as for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The VVD’s popularity rocketed after the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Netherlands, mainly because of Rutte’s introduction of a so-called “intelligent lockdown” which stressed social distancing and hand-washing as the most effective ways to fight the virus rather than a complete shutdown.
The party’s popularity waned through the summer but picked up again in recent weeks, Ipsos said, despite hard new rules to battle a rampant surge in infections which included the closure of all restaurants, bars and cannabis cafes.
“This is particularly noteworthy because now, more than during the first phase of the crisis, there is criticism of the cabinet’s actions,” Ipsos said in its poll, published Monday.
“The discussion about the corona measures also seems to be more widespread now than it was before the summer,” it said.
However, confidence in the centre-right four party coalition, led by Rutte’s VVD remains high, with 62 percent of Dutch voters approving, Ipsos said.
Rutte has led three coalitions since being voted into power as the country’s first Liberal prime minister since 1918. — AFP