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Who is Dick Schoof, the likely successor to Dutch PM Mark Rutte?


Who is Dick Schoof, the likely successor to Dutch PM Mark Rutte?

The new poltical coalition’s intention to nominate Dick Schoof to succeed Mark Rutte as the next prime minister moved a step closer to reality on Tuesday. Rumors of the likely nomination leaked out earlier in the afternoon, before the former intelligence services chief arrived for a meeting with the leaders of the four coalition parties, PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB.

Schoof arrived at about 2 p.m. for the meeting, which was led by Richard van Zwol, the formateur tasked with helping shape the new coalition’s first Cabinet. The four party leaders, Van Zwol, and Schoof will then take part in a press conference at the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch Parliament.

Until recently, Schoof was a member of the PvdA, the Labour party in the Netherlands. He somewhat recently resigned from that party, according to RTL Nieuws and BNR. It is not clear when he resigned, or why, but the left-wing party does not allow its active members to serve in a Cabinet position if that party is not involved in the government.

He was born in 1957 in Santpoort-Zuid, a village that is now part of the Noord-Holland municipality of Velsen. Following his studies in spatial planning, he began working in various government roles, eventually becoming the second-highest ranking civil servant at the Ministry of Justice and Security.

He wound up at the head of IND, the country’s immigration and naturalization office, before moving to a different ministry, Interior and Kingdom Relations. There, he became the head of public order and security.

Schoof was tapped to become the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) in 2013, where he oversaw the country’s alertness towards radicalization, and issues like people leaving the Netherlands to join the Islamic State during the civil war in Syria. At the NCTV, his office launched a program reimbursing municipalities that hired private investigators to covertly study local Islamic groups. Schoof was criticized later for burying concerns about the program’s intrusiveness and the prospect it could cause social division.

He was also in that office when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine after departing from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. He moved over to lead the civilian intelligence service AIVD, where his office investigated links between Dutch politicians and individuals in Russia, and continued his oversight into right-wing extremism and religious radicalization.

After his return to the Ministry of Justice and Security, Schoof has helped lead the extensive revision of the country’s Code of Criminal Procedure. The major undertaking has been in the works for years, and was analyzed by the Council of State from early 2021 through mid-2022. The debate in the Tweede Kamer over the changes should begin in January 2025, with a goal towards implementing the new code in April 2029.

Schoof said that the revisions will bring the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure into “the modern age” and allow the “full use of digital resources.” The rewrite will also streamline the system of pro forma hearings and status updates in courtrooms, to hopefully bring cases to trial more rapidly, he said. The ministry itself said it makes it possible for investigative services to rapidly adapt to tackle emerging forms of criminal behavior, the more flexible use of existing and developing technology, strengthened position of victims, and an ability to involve the defense attorneys in a case at an earlier stage

The last person rumored to be a leading contender to become the next prime minister was also a PvdA member. Ronald Plasterk was a Labour figure for more than 45 years when he emerged as the favorite potential nominee of Geert Wilders. As PVV leader, Wilders has the opportunity to lead the discussion on the next prime minister as the PVV won the most seats in the November election.

Plasterk was the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations during Rutte’s second Cabinet, and became the head of the Amsterdam Medical Center soon after. Despite building a relationship with Wilders and helping to lead the early round of coalition formation talks, Plasterk alienated NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt.

It soon emerged that Plasterk was also wrapped up in a scandal related to science research ethics and fraud for claiming sole credit of a cancer treatment patent that earned him millions, but without generating significant revenue for the medical center and another researcher involved in the development.

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