Home News Former intelligence chief named next Dutch prime minister

Former intelligence chief named next Dutch prime minister


The Netherlands will have a new prime minister, with the four right-wing parties forming the government finally announcing their choice more than six months after the election.

The two parties on Tuesday chose their top justice official, Dick Schoof, 67. They will now proceed with forming a cabinet, appointing ministers and secretaries of state, with the goal of forming a government in about four weeks.

The choice of Mr. Schauf — a top official at the Ministry of Justice and Security and a former counterterrorism chief with no political experience or party affiliation — reflects the Netherlands’ attempt to govern the country differently after 13 years in power under Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

While Mr. Schuff’s name as a potential candidate for prime minister has not been widely circulated, four parties have said they agree to form a government that includes political outsiders to create more distance between parliament and the cabinet.

“The steps I am taking now are unexpected but not illogical,” Schoof told reporters at a news conference in The Hague on Tuesday, saying he wanted to be prime minister for all Dutch people.

Nearly two weeks before his election, four right-wing parties held a combined 88 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives. A preliminary agreement was reached on forming a government The unexpected election results last November set off months of negotiations.

Geert Wilders, a longtime populist leader known for his anti-Muslim stance, shocked the Dutch political world by winning the most votes. But his party still needs to form a coalition to govern, and after talks stalled, Wilders said in March that he would not serve as prime minister.The leaders of three other political parties also agreed to do the same and quit the country’s top political posts.

The parties involved in the coalition negotiations include Wilders and his Liberal Party, the People’s Democratic Party for Freedom (a center-right party that has been in power for the past 13 years), the New Social Contract Party, A new centrist partyand the populist pro-farmer party, the Peasant Citizens’ Movement.

All four parties appear to be hoping to find a centrist leader to lead the Scuff to help tackle thorny issues such as immigration policy and the nation’s housing shortage.

Schuff stressed on Tuesday that all four parties had invited him to become prime minister, not just Wilders.

Wilders said on Tuesday that Schouf “transcended party lines” and was “compassionate.”

“Congratulations, Dick!” he Written on X.

But Janka Stoker, professor of leadership and organizational change at the University of Groningen, said a foray into political competition might be inevitable once Mr. Schoof assumes the Netherlands’ top public office.

“It’s going to require a lot of political skill, which is not something he’s good at,” Dr. Stock added. “It’s a bit risky.”

Mr. Schoof does not belong to any political party. After being a member of the Dutch Labor Party for about 30 years, Mr. Schoof said that he cancelled his membership in 2021 because he no longer felt connected to the party.

“I’m a nonpartisan person,” Schuff told reporters Tuesday.

He began his career in public service in the late 1980s as an official at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. From 2013 to 2018, Mr. Schoof served as National Security and Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, during which time he was involved in the investigation MH17 crashHe later became director of the Netherlands Intelligence Service and, since 2020, a senior official at the Ministry of Justice and Security.

Edwin Bakker, a professor of terrorism studies at Leiden University, predicted that Schuff’s lack of political experience would not be a problem because he has been close to politicians throughout his career and served as national security adviser to outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“He’s very experienced in crisis communications,” Dr. Barker said. “I think that’s a prerequisite for being prime minister.”

He said the selection of Mr. Schoof was a pleasant surprise, especially given his background in safety and cybersecurity.

“This is not someone who hides behind bureaucracy,” Dr Barker said.

Schuff’s career has not been entirely without controversy: in 2021, Dutch newspaper NRC The report said the National Security and Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, led by Mr. Schuff, used fake accounts on Twitter to track citizens. When asked about this at a press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Schuff declined to comment.

Bits of Freedom, an independent Dutch group focused on privacy and online freedom, said it had concerns about the selection of Mr. Schauf because of what it called privacy violations by Dutch officials under his leadership.

“Our own government is also a threat to the rule of law,” Evelyn Austin, the group’s director, said in a statement. “We hope Dick Schuef, as prime minister, will be committed to upholding the rights and safety of all citizens and learning from the past.”

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