BRUSSELS — The European Union’s climate chief quit his job in the EU’s executive arm Tuesday and will lead a broad center-left coalition of social democrats and greens going into the Dutch elections in November.
Social Democrat Frans Timmermans, 62, was the only candidate and won 91.8% of votes cast by party members of both groups Tuesday. He will be seeking to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who will not run in the Nov. 22 election.
Timmermans is a well-traveled politician who was the Dutch foreign minister before starting work at the EU’s Commission. He has been leading the EU’s climate push for the past four years.
“Thanks to his excellent contribution and strong personal engagement, we have made great strides towards meeting the EU’s objectives to become the first climate neutral continent, and towards raising the levels of climate ambition globally,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after accepting his resignation.
The Dutch elections are wide open, with two new parties vying to become the biggest force in the nation, as traditional groups like the Christian Democrats face major challenges to maintain their standing. In a fragmented political landscape, over a dozen parties will have a shot to get into parliament, and coalition talks are expected to be lengthy.
The combined green and socialist list seeking to unite the center-left vote is expected to be among the biggest groups emerging from the polls, possibly giving Timmermans a major role in the government talks.
The last four ruling Dutch coalitions have been led by Rutte’s conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
Rutte and his last four-party coalition resigned in July after failing to reach agreement on a package of measures to rein in migration. Rutte, the Netherlands’ longest-serving premier, has announced that he will leave politics once a new coalition is formed after the election.
In the EU’s Commission, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič will temporarily take over Timmermans’ position until the Dutch government announces its new candidate.
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