The nearly 18m people of the Netherlands face uncertainty following the collapse of the Dutch government earlier this summer. The cabinet is currently overseeing the nation with a “caretaker” status until a general election is held on 22nd November.
At the time of the government’s demise, it was led by a coalition of four political parties, with prime minister Mark Rutte at the helm since 2010.
This centre-right four-party coalition comprised: the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD), the Christian Democratic Party (Christen-Democratische Partij, CDP ), Democrats 66 (Democraten 66, D66), and the Christian Union (ChristenUnie, CU).
Following its collapse, which was primarily due to its inability to compromise on asylum issues, it looked as if the government would be led by a centre-right coalition. However, there is also increasing talk of the likelihood of a more progressive government.
Politico’s Poll of Polls shows a sharp decline in the previously growing right-wing Farmer-Citizen Movement (BoerBurgerBeweging, BBB). Instead, a newer left-leaning political party, the New Social Contract (Nieuw Sociaal Contract, NSC) has been formed since the collapse and is rapidly gaining popularity.
It seems likely that the NSC will join forces with the established left-wing coalition GroenLinks-PvdA – an alliance between GreenLeft (GroenLinks, GL) and the Labour Party (P van de A, PvdA). Whether or not they accept a coalition with the VVD to claim power or with smaller left-wing parties remains to be seen.
Uncertain future of tobacco regulations
The NSC declined to comment on the future direction of its tobacco policy. A spokesperson for the NSC told TobaccoIntelligence that it will present its manifesto for the upcoming election sometime before 1st November.
“Beforehand, it [would be] premature to give you our stance,” the spokesperson added.
In either event, the new government will be further to the left ideologically than its predecessor governments, and a new leader will emerge as Rutte, the longest-serving prime minister, has announced his retirement.
Previously, the VVD led the government’s efforts to implement the National Prevention Agreement (NPA), which advocated uniform tobacco and nicotine product regulations with the eventual goal of a “smoke-free generation” and the demise of the tobacco/nicotine-based industry.
While the NPA may not be a priority as a new government is formed and gets off the ground, the government is likely to support its goals in the long run.
It was previously thought that the BBB would take the lead, and its libertarian stance would be more lenient on regulations, especially concerning vapour products and tobacco alternatives.
In the current, left-leaning landscape, the fate of the NPA and regulations governing tobacco alternatives will be driven by public support.
Any new government will face pressure
A website called SmaakNoodzaak (Taste Necessity) – a collaboration between Acvoda, an organisation of users of e-cigarettes, and trade association Esigbond – is pushing for members of the public to share their support of e-cigarettes and their flavours.
This collaboration also held a protest at the Dutch House of Representatives over the summer and has garnered roughly 20,000 signatures on a petition in support of blocking the flavour ban.
SmaakNoodzaak says that the incoming members of Parliament “can still declare the decision controversial”, which would mean the caretaker cabinet would no longer be in charge of making the decision and it would block outgoing state secretary Paul Blokhuis from enacting the ban.
In any event, the new government will face pressure from the World Health Organization (WHO). Hans Henri Kluge, regional director for Europe at the WHO, supports the NPA and says: “There is an urgent need to accelerate the implementation of control measures as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. By doing this, we can prevent millions of people suffering and succumbing to tobacco-related diseases.”
The only real question would be how the new government views e-cigarettes and flavoured vaping products as effective smoking-cessation aids.
– James Demmin-De Lise TobaccoIntelligence contributing writer
Photo: Michael Fousert