Embattled Den Haag mayor resigns with immediate effect after week of scandal

Pauline Krikke resigns as Den Haag mayor
Pauline Krikke resigns from her post as Mayor of Den Haag in a video she published on October 6, 2019Image: Pauline Krikke / Instagram

A week of scandal in Den Haag has led the city's mayor to tender her resignation on Sunday. Pauline Krikke, of conservative party VVD, was appointed to the job and first took office on March 17, 2017, and previously spent 12 years as the mayor of Arnhem and seven years on Amsterdam's city council

However, 14 years of mayoral experience was not enough to weather the storm that hit the world of local politics in the Zuid-Holland capital. "It is difficult for me but I wanted to be the first to tell you, the residents of The Hague: I have just offered my immediate resignation to the King's Commissioner.", Krikke said on Sunday in a video message.

It started on October 1 when authorities revealed they had raided the homes and offices of two Den Haag aldermen, a city councillor from the city, and three other entrepreneurs. They were the focus of an investigation into allegations that nightclub and catering permits were being arranged for people who paid bribes.

All of the politicians under suspicion come from the biggest political faction in Den Haag, Groep de Mos/Hart van Den Haag, including Richard de Mos, the party's namesake. That faction led a four-party ruling coalition which fell apart later in the week because of the scandal, even though De Mos and aldermanic colleague Rachid Guernaoui said they would temporarily step down at Krikke's urging.

"The commotion about their performance, whether justified or not, forms a serious obstacle to the continuity of future-focused thinking and actions of both the directors and the officials," Krikke said her statement to the public on Sunday. "Anyone who attended the special crisis meeting of the city council on this subject last Wednesday was able to witness its crippling impact on constructive thinking and debate, which originates from all sorts of insinuations and reproaches stacking 'new injuries' upon 'old wounds.'"

She noted that her own performance was called into question, and the entire situation made it difficult for the advisory board comprising of the mayor and alderpersons to work with the independent city council.

The political corruption scandal was followed by a blistering report from the Dutch Safety Board about the city's handling of a massive bonfire in Scheveningen last New Year's Eve that caused several other fires and evacuations there. The report said that no adequate precautions were enforced by the city even after similar incidents occurred a year earlier on a smaller scale.

The bonfire ten months ago reached at least 45 meters high, 10 more than organizers had promised, and the wood pallets used for the fire were ignited with barrels of diesel fuel. This led to a massive blaze causing intense air pressure that sent flaming pieces of wood flying into the wind early on New Year's Day. It caused dozens of fires to homes and vehicles, and luckily there were no injuries.

Den Haag officials said they felt threatened by the organizers, which was one reason they did not shut the event down when commitments were not upheld.

Still, Krikke's performance leading up to and following the New Year's incident was set to be a topic of continued arguing in city hall, as even Krikke herself said weeks later that she believed the situation to have been handled safely. "The debate about my future stands in the way of the debate about the future of Den Haag," Krikke said. "I cannot do something differently from what I have asked from my alderpersons, namely not to interfere with the progress of thought and function in Den Haag."

"I served as mayor of Den Haag with my heart and soul," she concluded. Krikke was the city's first female mayor.

Krikke announced her decision on social media platform Instagram.

Den Haag City Council as of Nov. 30, 2018
The full City Council of Den Haag on Nov. 30, 2018Photo: Gemeenteraad Den Haag