The parliamentary elections in the Netherlands may have given more votes to Mark Rutte, 54, since 2010 as the country’s prime minister, but the big sensation was the second place Sigrid Kaag (pronounced Kaarr), 59, minister of Commerce from his cabinet.
When she climbed the campaign committee table and danced – in an image that went viral on social media – she had something to celebrate: Under her leadership, Democratic 66 (D66) outperformed two other parties in obtaining 15% of the votes and 24 seats. in Parliament, 5 more than in 2017.
Kaag’s performance has a lot to do with it, says political scientist Alexandre Afonso, professor of public policy at Leiden University (the Netherlands).
Playing an incisive role in the debates, Kaag explicitly opposed xenophobic candidate Geert Wilders of the far-right VVD party, until then the second largest acronym in the Netherlands.
Wilders previously attacked the trade minister for being married to a former Palestinian government deputy minister of Iasser Arafat, Ambassador Anis al-Qaq, 73, now a Middle East peace activist.
Mother of four – Janna, 25, Makram, 22 (adopted from an orphanage in Israel), Adam, 21, and Inas, 18 – the leader of D66 does not hesitate to describe her experiences in a family interethnic.
“I am a mother who sometimes in Holland has to explain that her daughter – who looks different – is really her daughter. Sometimes, due to my choice of husband and career, I am treated like a foreigner in my own country. And I ask myself: who decides who are the “Dutch foreigners” and who are not? “He said in a speech that was called a” poem “and which had a lot of repercussions in 2018.
In the campaign, the far-right rival called her a “traitor” for wearing a headscarf during a trip to Iran in 2018, when Kaag occupied the foreign ministry for a few months.
“I do not accept this,” she replied, reaffirming her party’s progressive platform on issues such as immigration, refugees, the environment and international cooperation.
Much more serious conflicts were constant in his diplomatic career. In 2013 and 2014, Kaag led the United Nations disarmament mission that led to the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.
In 2016, a year before joining the Dutch government, he won the Carnegie Wateler Peace Prize for his delicate and dangerous missions in the Middle East.
“I have a lot of experience in times of war, but also in times of crisis in times of peace,” she said when she decided to join D66 and declared herself ready to win Dutch votes. “by a progressive and deeply liberal conviction”.
A poll carried out by the Ipsos institute after the elections showed that he had achieved this goal at least among voters up to 34 years old and with a high level of education. The D66 was the main party in these groups, with 18% and 21% of the vote respectively.
“Kaag won many votes in the home stretch of the campaign, among other reasons for her tough stance, for her international career and for being a woman,” says Afonso. The Netherlands has never had a female head of government and Kaag has already made it clear that he wants the job.
Fluent in six languages - including Arabic, where she graduated from Cairo – she was born in Rijswijk, on the outskirts of The Hague, and raised in central Holland. He lost a brother at the age of 6, and at age 12 his mother was diagnosed with cancer and his father, a classical pianist, fell into deep depression.
Successive tragedies caused Kaag and her sister to be raised in different orphanages, an experience that made her a self-sufficient child, she said in an interview. “He taught me that life can surprise you, for better or for worse, and that you should always be able to count on yourself.”
Criticized by opponents as an “elitist outsider”, the Democratic leader retaliates. “I applied for all the jobs and had to prove my worth like everyone else. I have my own pains as a person and a mother and both feet on the ground. My kids have student loans like everyone else. We all work for a living. “
More battles will be needed to achieve his goal of one day leading the Dutch government, Afonso analyzes. By tradition, the Prime Minister is the leader of the most voted party, and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by Mark Rutte remained in the lead with 22% of the vote and 34 seats in Parliament.
“For the moment, it is Rutte who dominates Dutch politics, and he does not leave much room for anyone else”, explains the political scientist.
Another problem is that the growth of the D66 came at the expense of a shrinking Green Party, in part aided by the fact that as minister Kaag was one of the leaders of the European movement to bind the accords. trade to environmental commitments, which included criticism Mercosur.
But it does mean that its expansion took place in the same progressive field. “The relative size of the blocs was the same in this election, but there was more fragmentation,” he says.
Without a barrier clause, a record of 17 acronyms should form Tweede Kamer (Dutch equivalent of the Chamber of Deputies), a multiplicity of parties called in Europe “holandification”.
On the other hand, the D66 managed to escape the fate that accompanies small parties when they reach the government and pass the stone through the window. Instead of losing votes, Kaag enlarged them and gained popularity and power to influence the government.
In the survey by the Ipsos institute, she appears in second position as the most suitable person to become Prime Minister, with 16% of preferences. That’s an expressive result for a star still rising, but it’s still half of Mark Rutte’s 33%.
The Prime Minister kept his approval high even after he stepped down and called for new elections for his government’s failures in a child care subsidy program that has injured thousands of families.
So far, Kaag’s short performance as minister has not gone without reservations. One of them was the pledge of 100 million euros (654 million reais) to improve education in poor countries after an exchange of tweets with American singer Rihanna.
Another was a transfer of 13 million euros (85 million reais) to the United Nations which helps Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), a decision criticized for lack of transparency by members of the government itself.
In a less likely scenario, Afonso says, even greater party fragmentation could leave the D66 at a similar level to the VVD, allowing Kaag to act as a pivot in discussions of future coalitions.
For now, it is almost certain that Kaag will reach a coalition deal with Rutte, alongside a third or fourth party that will achieve the necessary majority of 76 seats.
As the second force, the D66 will be able to claim the Ministry of Finance. It will be an important springboard for a policy which is said to be inspired by Prime Ministers Angela Merkel (Germany) and Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand), “leaders who do not wait for support, but create support”.