Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte won parliamentary backing for a contested nighttime curfew to contain the coronavirus, capping a roller-coaster week that tested his popularity less than a month before a general election.
The legislation passed by the Senate in The Hague means the nighttime curfew, which began on January 23 and triggered riots in Dutch cities, can stay in place through early March. The vote blunts a court order to lift the curfew after a judge said the situation didn’t constitute an extreme emergency, such as a break in country’s dike system.
The court decision triggered a government appeal, with a verdict due on February 26, and a speedy push by Rutte to enact a temporary emergency law to uphold the curfew.
The curfew controversy has threatened to turn into another hit to Rutte, who has led a caretaker government since January after his cabinet resigned over a child-care subsidies scandal. While Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy hold a comfortable poll lead, surveys suggest public support for curfew and a countrywide lockdown are waning.
, opening a first crack in the party’s high approval ratings throughout the pandemic.
Polling second, with about half as much support as Rutte’s party, is the anti-immigrant Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders.
The government initially imposed the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew using an emergency law that allows it to bypass parliament. The Dutch high court caught the government off guard when it threw out the measure on Tuesday, saying the situation doesn’t fit the definition of a “super emergency” such as a “dike breach.”
That prompted Rutte to initiate an emergency procedure that included consulting with parliament. Suspending the curfew would have “serious consequences,” he said.
Ahead of the election, Rutte warned the Dutch two weeks ago to brace for more bad news. Because of the advance of a fast-spreading strain detected in the U.K., an “inevitable third wave” of infections is coming, he said.