Virus gaffes dent Dutch king popularity: study

The Hague (AFP) –


Gaffes during Covid-19 lockdowns have badly dented the popularity of the Dutch king, a study said on Tuesday, as the Netherlands held a public holiday marking the monarch's birthday.

Confidence in King Willem-Alexander dove to 57 percent, from 76 percent in April last year, the Ipsos poll said as many Dutch donned orange to celebrate King's Day.

"Last year, King's Day celebrations were cancelled at the last minute because of the outbreak of the coronavirus," said the 37-page report, commissioned by the NOS public broadcaster.

The king then made a televised speech "in which he spoke about the crisis, the uncertainty and the isolation that goes with it. The speech had a positive reception".

"But a lot has happened in the meantime. Several times last year the King involved himself in controversy," said the report, which polled 1,000 Dutch adults from all walks of life.

In October 2020, the royals flew to Greece for a holiday, as the country declared a partial virus lockdown.

The royal couple returned a day later, following the outcry that erupted in the Netherlands after the details of the trip became public.

The royals afterwards apologised in a televised address, but confidence in the King plummeted to 47 percent in December.

The trip came just two months after the royals sparked controversy with a picture on social media that showed King Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima with a Greek restaurant owner on the island of Milos during another trip, without keeping social distancing and wearing facemasks -- two requirements in the Netherlands.

The royal holiday row also came as Willem-Alexander, who turns 54 on Tuesday, faced growing criticism for being out of touch, with the Dutch government ordering a review of the annual royal budget.

"Support for the monarchy is still under pressure and has decreased considerably compared to previous years," the Ipsos report said.

"Despite this, most Dutch still prefer the monarchy to a republic as a form of government," it added, with 58 percent in support of the Dutch constitutional monarchy as opposed to 23 percent preferring a republic.

The Netherlands was set to ease coronavirus restrictions Wednesday including cancelling a nighttime curfew and allowing cafes and bars to serve clients outside between noon and six pm.

The easing comes amid a rise in coronavirus cases in the country which has now reported more than 17,000 deaths and 1.4 million infections.