Dutch cabinet slammed, but survives debate over drug dealer payoff

Rutte Hebdo
Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaking after a Cabinet meeting. Jan. 9, 2015 (photo: Rijksoverheid). (Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaking after a Cabinet meeting. Jan. 9, 2015 (photo: Rijksoverheid))

The Dutch cabinet will be limping into the final 1.5 years of this term. While almost the entire opposition supported a motion of censure against the cabinet during the parliamentary debate about the so-called Teeven-deal on Wednesday, they managed to survive the vote, thoroughly chastised but alive.

The Teeven-deal refers to the deal former Justice State Secretary Fred Teeven made with drug criminal Cees H. in the year 2000. Teeven was still a prosecutor then. The Oosting-committee investigated the matter and released their conclusions - shortly that the deal was not up to scratch - last week. So far this deal resulted in three VVD politicians resigning from their positions - Security and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and State Secretary Fred Teeven and Anouchka van Miltenburg as president of the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament.

A motion of censure is seen as a serious signal to the government to watch their step. Only a motion of no confidence is considered even more serious. The cabinet survived this motion with 65 parliamentarians voting for and 77 voting against, NU reports.

"I've been in politics for 13 years now, but this is by far the toughest debate in my political career", Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at the start of his contribution to the debate on Wednesday, according to NU.

He called it "stupid" that he managed to create the impression that he knew more about the information Cees H. gave in return for the deal and that he does not completely agree with the Oosting-committee's conclusions while speaking at his weekly press conference on Friday. He said that he should have been "more on the ball" when the issue continued to fester.

There is a widely held belief among the opposition that Rutte contributed to hiding the truth. The Prime Minister Firmly denied this. He does however regret not immediately sharing a note about a conversation between Teeven and an official about the amounts involved in the deal with the Kamer. According to Rutte, when the note came to him for the first time during the debate after Opstelten's resignation, he did not have time to find out whether or not the note was confidential. He now sees that he should have made the time to do so.

New Security and Justice Minister Ard van der Steur and State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff both acknowledged that they should not have been involved in what information Opstelten shared about the deal. Dijkhoff advised that the press release not deny the amount of 4.7 million guilders.

Van der Steur was not involved in the press statement released after the first Nieuwsuur reports on the  conversation note and the real amounts involved in the deal, but he acknowledged that he should not have advised Opstelten on the matter. He added that he drew the line when the Director-General tried to show him the conversation note.

Dijkhoff was involved in the press statement. "Discussing a draft press statement is going a step too far", he said in the debate. Dijkhoff did speak out against the statements that he was helping with giving the Kamer incorrect information. "I did not think at any point that I was covering something up. I was helping keep the Kamer out of the woods", he said.

The opposition had a big problem with Dijkhoff and Van der Steur's involvement in the press statement after the Nieuwsuur reports. The press statement said that the Nieuwsuur information was incorrect, but it later turned out to be true after all. VVD leader Halbe Zijlstra stated that the two then-parliamentarians did right by advising that the amount not be denied, seeing as they did not know whether the amount was correct or not.