Dutch coalition chooses Dick Schoof as prime minister

Senior civil servant was previously director general of the intelligence agency

The four parties of the new Dutch right-wing coalition have chosen the former head of the country’s security service to replace long-serving Mark Rutte as prime minister.

Dick Schoof (67), the most senior civil servant in the justice ministry, was previously director general of the intelligence agency, AIVD, and has also served as national counter-terrorism co-ordinator, advising the government on the live threat level.

The parties – Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party, the centre-right VVD, the fledgling New Social Contract and the farmers’ lobby, BBB – agreed a coalition in the middle of this month. Talks began after last November’s general election, in which the Freedom Party was the clear winner.

However, in response to resistance at the prospect of Mr Wilders as the country’s first far-right premier, all four leaders ruled themselves out of contention for prime minister and instead agreed instead to remain at the head of their parties in parliament.


The coalition’s first choice for prime minister was retired genetics professor, Ronald Plasterk, who withdrew last week.

Although never officially nominated, Mr Plasterk’s departure soured the search and led to a string of high-profile personalities publicly ruling themselves out – until Mr Wilders was forced to reassure MPs last week that filling the top job had become “an acute priority”.

Mr Schoof, who is secretary general of the department of justice and who had connections to the Labour Party in the past, has never been mentioned in media speculation about Mr Rutte’s successor.

He will face the daunting job of implementing the coalition’s programme for government, which includes tough new restrictions on migration and seeking an opt-out from EU environmental policies on CO2 emissions.

Significantly, he previously worked in the Immigration and Naturalisation Service, specifically on reform of legislation, which may give him some valuable insights.

More immediately, he joins the search for other highly qualified political outsiders who may wish to join the coalition as “technocratic” expert ministers – a change designed to “loosen” the relationship between the new cabinet and parliament.

His nomination is a belated coup for Mr Wilders, who told reporters after meeting Mr Schoof on Tuesday evening: “I am happy and proud. He’s a strong individual who has the confidence of all four parties.”

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court