Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (2724)

Lasana Sekou being studied at the Catholic University of Chile. St. Martin literature in Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Italy, USA media

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - St. Martin literature is being studied at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

Hurricane Protocol by Lasana Sekou is the St. Martin poetry book that is being studied for the course on “Afro-Caribbean Literature and Music,” taught by Prof. Thomas Rothe at PUC, a leading South America university.

 The section of the course entitled “Contemporary soundings in Caribbean literature,” looks at “polyphonic narration” in A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and “grounded poetry” through Sekou’s work. Last year Rothe taught Hurricane Protocol for the same course, which “offers a survey of 20th-century Afro-Caribbean literature in English, focusing on the dynamic relationship between written and oral forms of expression, particularly in the genres of novel, poetry and popular music like calypso and reggae.” ( The required and complimentary books and recordings for the students to read, analyze, discuss and write about include creative and critical works by authors and artists such as Claude McKay, Louise Bennett, Samuel Selvons, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Kwame Dawes, Kamau Brathwaite, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Franklin W. Knight, Stuart Hall, Blanca Acosta, George Lamming, and Rex Nettleford. In the USA, poetry from Sekou’s Hurricane Protocol is in “a poetry unit about hurricanes for the Dranoff Foundation and Miami Dade Public Schools,” said the curriculum developer Geoffrey Philp. The program includes books and poetry by Derek Walcott, Celia Sorhaindo, Kendel Hippolyte, Lelawatee Manoo-Rahim, and Brathwaite.

In the Caribbean, Sekou’s “my sweet land, come to me, #borderless,” a poem about the St. Martin protest last September 16 at the island’s French-Dutch border, is in the current issue of BIM. The leading Barbados arts journal includes articles by Hon. Mia Mottley, the country’s Prime Minister, Prof. Hilary Beckles, Reparations advocate and UWI Vice Chancellor, and scholar Anthony Bogues, among others.

The yearlong COVID-19 lockdown hasn’t prevented the HNP book Caribbean Counterpoint – The Aesthetics of Salt in Lasana Sekou, from receiving critical reviews.

The ability by the book’s author, Dr. Sara Florian, “to locate Sekou within wider critical and literary debate is ultimately admirable and makes for a better, more satisfying portrait of his poetic universe,” wrote Lucio De Capitani in Il Tolomeo (Vol 22), the European comparative literature journal at Italy’s Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia.

In Guyana’s Kaieteur News, Glenville Ashby pointed to Florian’s “dissection” of Sekou. “We see a man driven by a painful history, a history that collectively cements a people into a worn but redeemable fabric. In Jungian terms, his native land is part of a Caribbean gestalt, part of a historico-cultural archetype that haunts but, at the same time, offers redemption and healing.”

Interviewing the Caribbean, a journal out of UWI in Jamaica, became available this week with new verse by Lasana Sekou, his poetry from Book of the Dead, and an interview with him by the journal’s editor Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa.

The writings of over 30 authors and scholars appear in the final issue of the two-part tribute to the late literary titan Kamau Brathwaite, said Sample.


Coronavirus cases in hospital highest for six weeks, infections up by 16%

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 has reached its highest level since the start of February, according to the latest daily figures from the public health agency RIVM.

In total 2,193 people are being treated for coronavirus infections, 120 more than on Sunday. The number in intensive care has gone up by 27 to 628 in the last 24 hours, with 45 new admissions – the largest intake since January 8.

Another 6,340 new cases were reported by the RIVM, while the average for the last seven days is 6,481. In the last seven days daily cases have increased by an average of 16.5% week on week.

Another 15 people were confirmed in the last 24 hours to have died from coronavirus, against a weekly average figure of 29. The virus is continuing to decline in nursing homes, with 253 institutions reporting an infection in the last two weeks, compared to 294 a week ago.



Election watch: The right gets more extreme and the left is in disarray

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – With work now starting on putting a new coalition government together, attention is focusing on the performance of the far right in last week’s general election and how the left can move forward.

Not the D66 win but the combined 28 seats for the extreme right is the real news coming out of the Dutch elections, commentator Kustaw Bessems says in an essay in the Volkskrant.

Some have argued that support for extreme right in this election has not fundamentally changed the political balance in the Netherlands. However, while the numbers are not that significant – after all Lijst Pim Fortuyn and Leefbaar Nederland won 28 seats between them in 2002 – the content is very different, Bessems argues.

In fact, the PVV, FvD and JA21 are making Leefbaar Nederland and Pim Fortuyn seem positively tolerant, Bessems suggests, somewhat ironically. Leefbaar Nederland at least advocated strict penalties for racism and discrimination and Fortuyn included ‘extra care in areas such as housing, education and cultural education for people with a socio-cultural disadvantage’ in his manifesto.

Neither comes close to Wilders and Baudet, Bessems said. There has been a shift towards radicalism and no matter how limited the influence these parties may have in the coming years, the results show that one fifth of Dutch voters either support or do not mind extremist views, he argues.

And only if Sigrid Kaag makes good on her promise to represent broad swathes of society can this rift be healed, Bessems said.

A similar point is made by columnist Sheila Sitalsing. ‘Nineteen years on, the Fortuyn agenda reads like a discussion paper from the extreme left wing of the VVD, in which some of the old Liberals are saying that ‘just fight your way in’ is a poor approach to integration and are ashamed that so little money is going to aid for developing countries,’ she wrote.

The shift is also reflected by the language used by the politicians of today to speak about refugees, immigrants and people with different beliefs, she writes. Today’s ‘right-wing conservatives’ speak about Muslims as if they are cockroaches and the ‘centre right’ [VVD] wants to withdraw from the UN refugee treaty, she points out.

The PVV manifesto, she writes, calls for a ban on mosques and the Koran, a ministry of de-Islamisation, and to remove refugee permits from Syrians. And JA21, she notes, has already forgotten that they left Forum voor Democratie because of the racism within an app group and is already taking about ‘constructive’ cooperation with Baudet.

A left-wing huddle?

While the right have shifted further to the right, on the other end of the political spectrum the parties are in disarray. Together, the Socialists, Labour party and GroenLinks now have just 27 MPs, with support for the SP and GroenLinks virtually halved.

New entrant BIJ1, which calls for ‘radical equality’, just scraped one seat. Former PvdA leader Job Cohen says the three traditional parties on the left should form a new block as a result of the severe hammering they received from voters.

‘I’d say, let’s start again. We’ll find a new name and get going,’ he told current affairs programme Nieuwsuur. Issues the new party would have to embrace would include an affordable climate policy, and a more generous attitude to refugees, while at the same time looking after the interests of the people who already live in the poorer areas where refugees come to live, Cohen said.

Main issues

Trouw says in an analysis that some of the issues traditionally the territory of the left have now been taken over by others. The VVD wants to ‘tidy up the fringes of capitalism’ while the CDA wants to scrap the extra tax on housing corporations.

D66 made a big point out of equality of opportunity and nearly all the parties want a higher minimum wage. These are issues which are attractive to people, the paper said.

‘Some 60% to 70% of the population think the gap between rich and poor should be smaller.’ This means that before the left can merge, the individual parties will have to go through ‘a ritual after a defeat’ to find out why they were so convincingly trounced, the paper says.

‘Only then can they find an answer to the question of how to make the left relevant again,’ the paper said. ‘A merger can never be the only answer.’



Coronavirus upward trend continues, rules won’t be relaxed for Easter

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Public health institute RIVM received notification of 7,025 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, down 617 on Saturday but still an upward trend.

The number of positive tests over the past week have risen some 20% compared with the week before. In addition, Sunday and Monday’s new infection figures tend to be lower than the rest of the week.

The number of people being treated in hospital for coronavirus is up slightly, and 611 of them are now being in treated in intensive care.

Ministers met government healthcare advisors to discuss the latest situation ahead of Tuesday’s press conference on Sunday, but some members of the Outbreak Management Team have already said publicly they do not think that the rules can be relaxed any more at present, given the increase in cases.

Broadcaster NOS reported on Sunday afternoon that the current measures, including the 9pm curfew, will continue into April. NOS bases its claim on cabinet sources. Prime minister Mark Rutte said two weeks ago that he hoped it would be possible to reopen the cafe terraces for the Easter weekend.



Prime Minister Jacobs on the Anniversary of COVID-19 in Sint Maarten

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On March 17, 2020, the first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed on St. Maarten; thus, we are just over one year since the coronavirus cases came to our doorstep. Since then, we instituted one lockdown, followed by a phased reopening of essential services, businesses, medical services, schools, sports and arts facilities, as well as to the world. Today, we are welcoming visitors to our shores safely, releasing more and more restrictions, and moving forward with our vaccination program, though we are still in recovery. I can proudly say we are well on our way to normality. 

I felt it pertinent to take the time to reflect on what the past 12 plus months have meant for St. Maarten and her people. Over the past year, our first course of action was to protect our citizens from the pandemic with risk to Public Health by restricting travel, while still ensuring our residents and visitors could travel home. This was done via the activation of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which I chaired as Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs. Many difficult decisions were made after advice from the professionals in the field and in consultation with international agencies. These decisions included the need to temporarily shut down our way of life and avoid unnecessary movement. This was deemed necessary, especially seeing our lack of resources to deal with large numbers of serious infections. It was and remains a fact that the COVID-19 pandemic was/is causing widespread illness, hospitalization and death among the populations of much more developed countries within Europe and the United States.

After our first positive case was detected on March 17, 2020, and to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19, all schools and non-essential businesses were shut down for 14 days on March 18, 2020, at 12:00 am. As cases increased, the difficult decision was made to implement a lockdown for St. Maarten. The economy came to a halt, and many people experienced a loss of income. Slowly but surely, we worked towards reopening through de-escalation of our measures during May and June. The handling of the pandemic saw the de-activation of the EOC on May 28, 2021, whereby the Council of Ministers, and its relevant Minister resumed the full responsibilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues today.

The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in our cooperation with our French counterparts, and exacerbated the difference in competencies of the local governments. It further highlights the need for better understanding between European and local counterparts to the realities of living and working in these Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and how we must improve collaboration in the interest of our shared territory.

As a government, we also provide support for those who need it the most via the various programs, St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) and Unemployment Support via the St. Maarten Development Foundation (SMDF) funded via the liquidity support received from the Dutch government. The Red Cross feeding program also started and continues to play a key role in providing direct food assistance to the most vulnerable in our society, which the government is expected to also take over within the next few months.

Over the past year, St. Maarten has had a total of 2101 confirmed cases per March 20, 2021, and today we can say that we have followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to bring our number of active cases to 18. Today, we can also say that thanks to the hard work of the Minister and Ministry of VSA, specifically the departments of Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and Public Health for their continued due diligence throughout the handling of the pandemic here on the island. As a result, we have started the implementation of our vaccination program and strive to reach our goal of a 70% vaccination rate of eligible adults by June 2021. 

I express great gratitude with pride for the fact that as a Small Island Development State (SIDS), though facing financial ruin, we have been able to successfully contain this deadly virus, even after serious spikes which unfortunately led to the deaths of some 27 persons, whom we can never forget for the sacrifice of their lives. The loss of their lives, and the loss their families and loved ones still feel and will feel for some time to come, remains in our hearts and prayers as a country of faith. The loss of economic development occurring around the world, which also negatively impacts St. Maarten and which has jeopardized the livelihoods of many families, who now have had to rely on family, friends, even government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) support has been even wide spread and requires all hands on deck to get us back to pre-pandemic levels.

The successes in the fight against the virus were only possible due to the hard work of the relevant authorities on the front lines, assistance from our Kingdom partners and the discipline of the business community and residents alike in upholding the legislated protocols when out and about in public, as well as the increased hygiene practices which were highly promoted throughout the pandemic via various media. It is indeed a beautiful thing when we all work together to keep everyone safe. 

On behalf of the government of St. Maarten, I would like to thank first and foremost the Ministry of VSA for their on-going work and support during this pandemic. I would like to thank the EOC and all ESF teams and our front liners for getting us through the darkest days, which began just 12 months ago.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to our teachers, the business community, and of course the people of St. Maarten for your hard work, patience, diligence, and determination to survive and succeed, as well as your resilience in seeking alternative income streams to provide for your families and keep them safe. This is not the end of difficult times, but we know that together we are stronger, and as a unit we can face anything after surviving 2020. Building a more sustainable and diverse economy able to withstand external shocks while ensuring that our citizens can enjoy a good quality of life is the goal of this government.

Moving forward we are to ensure that not one more life is lost to COVID-19 and that the health of our population improves substantially thereby minimizing the risk of death from these types of viruses and other known medical threats which are currently prevalent such as hypertension, diabetes, heart and lung disease as well cancer. How we individually prioritize our health will play a big role in this, such as building our immune systems through the consumption of healthy food, getting enough exercise and rest for the body and mind.

In remembering our journey thus far, I encourage you to continue to follow the health protocols and ensure that you continue to uphold the protocols that ensure our safety, as well as register for the vaccine at If you are still in doubt, do your research, and speak to your doctor for in-depth information and advice.


Emmanuel says country suffering due to deceitful coalition and PM

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament MP Christophe Emmanuel is calling on the people of St. Maarten to recognize the governing coalition and the Prime Minister for what they are: Deceitful politicians with no plans for the country.

“By now, based on their actions over the past two weeks, including disastrous appearances on radio and social media, it should be more than clear to the people, the type of empty representation they have in government,” the MP said.

He said the UN petition that was supposed to focus on decolonization, has further exposed rifts within the governing coalition whose members are “all over the place” when it comes to this document. The MP said the Prime Minister has yet to answer if she supports the initiators of the petition with a simple yes or no. “Do you support the initiators of the petition yes or no? Do you support the petition yes or no?

“The only thing the PM has said is that she has only read the conclusion of the petition and her impression is that it is ‘only’ and investigation. Only an investigation? What happens when that investigation concludes and is in favor or against St. Maarten? What is the Prime Minister’s intended actions in that regard?” The MP asked, adding that it is incredible that the PM of the country not read a petition with the potential to affect the country on all levels.

He said the Moody’s downgrading of St. Maarten is yet another example of the confusion this government is creating with investors worldwide, by not clearly stating its positions with the Netherlands and showing no creativity whatsoever when it comes to growing the economy post-COVID, attracting investors and the ability for St. Maarten to fund initiatives on its own.

He said it is “deceitful” for the PM to act as if the petition will have no bearing whatsoever on the country. To diminish the petition by stating it is just an investigation, the MP said, is a deliberate act of evasion and not informing the people of what the country would have to prepare for.

Most notably, the MP continued, there is no mention from the PM about what the petition means for the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO). He pointed out that the PM and her support in Parliament once again lied to the people last Friday by implying that the COHO has nothing to do with the country package. “From day one I have said they are part and parcel the same thing and cannot be separated,” the MP re-iterated.

“If the petition was not important then State Secretary Knops would not have written to the PM last week asking for a re-confirmation of her government’s support for the country packages and COHO. He called the petition an unpleasant surprise because he foresees that the petition can present an issue for the COHO in the future. The Prime Minister responded by assuring the State Secretary that support from government and Parliament is guaranteed,” Emmanuel said.

The MP explained that coalition MP’s appeared on several radio programs last week and “totally demolished the COHO” and the way the Dutch blackmailed (their words) St. Maarten. “Yet we have a PM that is determined to push it through. So what happens if the COHO is confirmed to be against St. Maarten’s autonomy? Will we roll back everything? What is the plan? These are developments that affect your country at the highest levels and you cannot say what the plan is? What will these MPs and the PM do if the petition concludes that the COHO infringes on our autonomy? The MP said.

“I hope the PM is not playing this dangerous game of taking the liquidity money from the Dutch, only to see Parliament vote against the COHO, then say Parliament has free will to vote as they please. That is a dangerous game because the PM continuously creates the impression to Knops in writing that her support in Parliament for COHO is assured. The cutest recent attempt to re-enforce that notion was to take a group picture on the floor of Parliament to show Knops,” MP Emmanuel said.

He said that “since it is said” that Parliament cannot speak for the people of the country internationally, and only the PM can, the PM should not wait any longer to tell the world what she thinks about the petition that was reported upon worldwide.

MP Emmanuel concluded by re-iterating that he supported the motion because he supports decolonization, which is an unfinished process. As he has since December 2020, the MP stressed that he will not support the establishment of the COHO in any way, shape or form and will not be manipulated into an stance for independence before his people and his country are ready for it economically and on their own terms. “I want to talk about nation building on our terms before even thinking about independence,” he said.


Vaccination process: I must say I was very impressed. Thank you for Job well done

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG-COMMENTARY By Ricardo Perez) - Today I had the privilege of receiving my first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Belair Community center.  I had registered online about 2 weeks ago.  The process was easy and straight forward. 

Last week I received my appointment but unfortunately, I was off island, so I had to decline.  Earlier this week I received a new notification with the new appointment date for earlier today.  I arrived at the facility as indicated 15 minutes before the appointment and I was greeted by a police officer that indicated the documents I needed to complete. 

After completing the documents, I went to a registration desk and about 10 minutes later the information entered was being verified by a medical technician.  Before I knew it, the vaccine had been administered without any pain and I was out of the door in about 45 minutes from start to finish. 

I must say I was very impressed with the level of organization starting from the online process, the greeting by the police officer, the AUC students handling the registration desk, the medical technicians from the US administering the shots. 

The facilities were clean and comfortable with a great calming ambiance and social distancing was properly maintain throughout all the various steps. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dutch government for supplying the vaccine to the residents of St. Maarten and VSA, Dr. Best and his team for setting up such a “well oiled” machine to get this very important process completed so we can all come back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible. 

My sincere thanks to all, 

Ricardo Perez

General Manager

Oyster Bay Beach Resort/Coral Beach Club


Anti-bullying campaign at Sacred Heart School

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Saba’s Sacred Heart School hosted an anti-bullying week From Monday, March 15 through Friday, March 19 for all classes, facilitated by the Mentorship Program participants. 

Bullying is on the rise now within today's youth. In some instances, it can result in some dire consequences, which makes it a concerning matter for the parents and educational institutions, and on Saba, this is no different.

During the week, the Mentorship coordinators assigned mentors and his/her mentee to a class to raise awareness about bullying, educate the children on why it is important to be kind to one another and talk about the effects of bullying on another person. The sessions were also to motivate the teachers who often have to deal with bullying at school.

“The mentorship program has been a positive learning experience for me not only as a professional but also as a mother. It has definitely helped me to understand teenagers a little better and how to work with them. One of our mentor assignments was to give a short presentation on anti-bullying to grade 1 at Sacred Heart School,” said mentor Rosa Johnson.

“Together with another mentor/mentee, the four of us teamed up and brainstormed a fun way to teach kids that bullying is not right. We showed them a quick video on Captain McFinn anti-bullying, and we also asked them to sign and stamp their names in a pledge against bullying. Grade 1 was a great class to share this information with as most kids recognized bullying and that it was the right way to treat fellow classmates or friends,” said Johnson.

“Bullying is a serious and ongoing concern. Especially at the primary school level,” said Mentorship Program coordinator Rayann Ramdin of the Community Development Department. “On Monday, when we went to one class, and we asked who was experiencing bullying, almost the entire class raised their hand. It is definitely alarming, so we've decided to pay some attention and lend our resources.” The children are responding well to the anti-bullying project. “Children tend to respond positively to a new approach, to new faces and a new activity,” said Ramdin.

The Mentorship Program, a joint initiative of the Community Development Department of the Public Entity Saba and the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS), started in September last year. In August last year, 11 mentors received training. Each mentor has one mentee between the ages of 12 and 16. The program's first cycle will be closed off at the end of this month. About the program, Rosa Johnson said: “I am thankful and grateful for the past six months of this mentorship program, not only for the relationship I've been able to build with my mentee, but also I've learned more about myself in the process.”

The Christmas community project in December last year was another successful project of the Mentorship program where each mentor and mentee got a different assignment: baking cookies for police officers, volunteering at the daycare, organizing activities at the primary school, presenting tokens of appreciation to firemen and women, giving inspirational candy canes to random people in the street.

“We are committed to making a positive impact in the community, contributing in our own small way. And since the school is an important part of the community, we decided to close off our program with the anti-bullying project, which we hope will have a positive impact on the children, their teachers, and parents,” said Ramdin.

anti bullying campaign at Sacred Heart School 01




As of April 11, 2021 No more quarantine for Statians after vaccination

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - The Public Entity St. Eustatius will ease the measures as of April 11, 2021. Statia residents that are fully vaccinated do not need to go into quarantine when entering Statia after traveling abroad. This easing measure is not applicable for tourists.

The decision to easy the measures was taken after careful deliberation and after extensively consulting with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports in the Netherlands (VWS), the National Institute for Health and Environment (RIVM), the epidemiologist in Saba, Mr. Koen, the Public Health Department and the Crisis Management Team in Statia.

PRC test required

Statia residents returning from abroad still need to have a negative PCR test at hand, but this only applies if a high risk country was visited. A quick test (antigen) is also required 5 days after returning to Statia. In addition, social distancing and wearing a face mask are mandatory for the first 5 days after entry. Also, it is not allowed to attend events with more than 25 persons present during the first 5 days and the returning Statians must adhere to hygiene rules during these days such as washing hands regularly.

The easing measures are not applicable for tourists, even if they are vaccinated.


Children that were abroad and return from high-risk countries are not allowed to go to school or childcare for 5 days. Children in the age group of 4 years and older will be tested after 5 days. However, for children of 12 years and older, different measures apply. They need to go into quarantine upon arrival for 10 days. This can be done in the same house as their parents, but in a separate room. The distinction between these age groups is made due to the fact that children above 12 years are more often spreading the COVID-19 virus than children between 4 and 12 years.

Day visits to St. Maarten

Persons that are fully vaccinated with the two doses of the Moderna vaccine can visit St. Maarten for 1 day, without testing, and without the need to go into quarantine upon return to Statia. This easing measure is only applicable when the number of active COVID-19 cases on in St Maarten is below the 100 per week.

Incoming workers

Incoming workers that are vaccinated will be evaluated on a case by case basis. However, quarantine is required unless the type of work allows an easier regime.

Next steps

At this moment the Public Entity St. Eustatius is working on a roadmap which will include specific steps to further open Statia. This road map will first be discussed with the Central Committee next week. (Statia GIS)


Same team, different blend as Rutte just misses out on dream ticket

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The sight of Sigrid Kaag dancing on a table in response to D66’s election success proves, if nothing else, that Calvinism is on the wane in the Netherlands.

Dutch voters delivered a result on Wednesday night that was at once surprising and an affirmation of the status quo. Two months after the entire cabinet resigned in disgrace in response to a coruscating report over its handling of the child benefits scandal, the four parties in that government increased their representation to a projected 79 seats.

The two parties leading the inquiry into that scandal, which condemned the bureaucratic brutality with which working families were treated as fraudsters (the stain of racism was outside its remit and will be dealt with by a future inquiry), were among the biggest losers.

The Socialists (SP) have perhaps the most right to feel aggrieved. Having spent the last four years campaigning on behalf of disadvantaged families, their reward was to see a large share of their vote siphoned off by Thierry Baudet’s conspiracy-fuelled Covid caravan.

Three weeks after its nuclear meltdown over anti-Semitism, Baudet’s Forum for Democracy was the major winner among the minor players, going from two seats to eight.

CDA damaged

The Christian Democrats (CDA) were the only coalition party to drop seats, going from 19 to 14, reflecting Wopke Hoekstra’s underwhelming campaign and the deep divisions just below the surface.

The close leadership contest between health minister Hugo de Jonge and Pieter Omtzigt, backbench crusader and one of the two leading forces of the child benefits inquiry, has left its scars, but the bigger damage came in 2010, when the party was split over the decision to join a minority government with Rutte, supported by Geert Wilders’s anti-Islam PVV.

Having previously declined to stand as leader because he judged himself to be better as an administrator, Wopke Hoekstra finds himself vindicated on the first count by his poor performances in debates, but may now struggle to hang on to his job as finance minister.

GroenLinks desertion

D66 was the biggest winner, with a provisional 24 seats, equalling its best ever result in a general election. But Mark Rutte’s VVD also held up well, adding two seats to its total in 2017, as Kaag profited mainly from the desertion of GroenLinks voters.

The two parties will undoubtedly make the running in forming the next coalition, but despite initial predictions, the easiest option of a three-way partnership with the CDA would leave them one seat short of a majority.

Hoekstra will have to decide if a chastened CDA wants to rejoin the gang. Kaag will demand a high price, possibly including Hoekstra’s post at the finance ministry, where D66 blames him for souring relations within the European Union.

Europe is one area where D66 will want to change the tone, along with education, where the party wants to reintroduce student grants and a more welcoming attitude to refugees.

Fourth partner

The shifting balance also makes the choice of a fourth partner less straightforward. Four years ago D66 suspended their differences with the ChristenUnie on medical ethical issues and managed to work constructively on a range of issues such as education and migration.

But a more assertive D66 will be less willing to defer to the CU’s conscience on policies such as abortion rights and voluntary termination of life (‘voltooid leven’), which are deeply embedded in the party’s own liberal ethos.

An alternative option is Labour (PvdA), creating a ‘grand coalition’ of the four parties that have dominated government since the 1980s – and which were all implicated in the benefits scandal.

It would also give Rutte IV a majority in the Senate. Labour had a pre-election agreement not to join a coalition without GroenLinks (GL), but now Jesse Klaver’s party has lost half its seats, PvdA leader Lilianne Ploumen may feel justified in going it alone.

JA21, which broke away from Baudet’s party during the anti-Semitism debacle, also holds eight seats in the senate and is a potential power broker, but as a right-wing nationalist party it will have to crack some hard nuts with D66 on immigration and Europe.

At the other end, new party Volt Nederland would be an attractive partner for D66, but less so for Rutte, given its inexperience and close affiliation with Kaag’s party.

Vocal diplomacy

The obvious role for Kaag herself is foreign affairs minister, replacing the cautious, bureaucratic Stef Blok of the VVD. Blok blocked the last parliament’s votes demanding the government use the term ‘genocide’ to describe the Ottoman Empire’s massacre of Armenians in 1917 and China’s mass internment of its Uighur minority.

Both votes were D66 initiatives. With Kaag, a former UN diplomat with a wardrobe full of iron fists and velvet gloves, at the helm, expect the Dutch to become a more vocal player on the world stage again.

Rutte’s fourth coalition is agonisingly close to being his dream line-up: an alliance of conservatives and liberals, with no disruptive partners such as Wilders, no left-wingers such as the Labour party, and no awkward conscientious objectors such as the CU.

But the final piece of the puzzle may require some soul-searching.


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