Senate censures minister over tenant protections in Covid response

Kajsa Ollongren at Resilient Democracy in a Digital World in Washington D.C.
Kajsa Ollongren at Resilient Democracy in a Digital World in Washington D.C. February 12, 2019Stephen Voss for the Netherlands Embassy in the United StatesFlickrCC-BY

The upper house of Dutch parliament voted in favor of a motion to censure Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Kasja Ollongren on Tuesday for her refusal to freeze home rental prices in 2020 after the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Netherlands left many tenants in financial disarray. The vote went 39 in favor of the censure, and 36 against.

A mostly partisan display of disapproval, the motion of censure effectively signals that the minister's policy can count on little support from MPs going forward. The ruling coalition has a minority in the upper house, known in Dutch as the Eerste Kamer, consisting of 32 out of 75 seats.

The motion follows after an effort was spearheaded in April by left-wing opposition parties GroenLinks, SP, and PvdA to issue a moratorium on rent increases from July 1 due to Covid-19. While the moratorium enjoyed wide support from MPs during a debate last week, Ollongren held firm on her view that such a measure would not necessary, arguing instead that landlords should help tenants who find themselves in serious in financial trouble.

The motion of censure, tabled by the SP, comes as the latest show of opposition against the Minister's decision and marks an uncommon move for MPs to employ. According to the the Eerste Kamer, the vote was close with 39 senators voting in favor of the motion and 36 voting against it. Those in favor included senators from a wide range of political affiliations, including from the FvD, PVV, GroenLinks, PvdA, PvdD, 50Plus and from the independent faction OSF. Coalition parties VVD, CDA, D66, and ChristenUnie were joined by the SGP and Group Otten against the motion.

According to SP chairman Tiny Kox, it is not the parliament "that is walking a strange road", but rather Ollongren herself, urging that the motions supported by a majority of parliament be passed. "We are old in the Senate, but not crazy. The parliament must understand itself with the government, but the same applies the other way around," Kox told NOS.

Ollongren is expected to discuss the matter further with the cabinet on Friday, according to the public broadcaster.