Asscher steps back as Labour leader in upcoming election
Lodewijk Asscher will not be the leader for the PvdA in the upcoming parliamentary election. He will not be a candidate in the election, because he does not want the discussions about his role in the childcare allowance affair to stand in the PvdA's way of a good election result, he said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.
"I fervently hope that a stronger PvdA will be elected on 17 March because I think that is essential for a fair future. Because I think we should focus on a Netherlands after corona. But I note that the discussion about my role at the moment, doesn't make it possible to ensure that," Asscher said.
Asscher will finish his current term as parliamentarian, but will not be a candidate in the upcoming election, he said. While he didn't say explicitly that he will be leaving politics altogether, he did create that impression. "I look forward to serving society in a different way, in a different place, and at a different time."
A parliamentary committee of inquiry in December concluded that the Tax Authority breached the fundamentals of the rule of law and did "unprecedented injustice" to hundreds of parents when it wrongly labeled them fraudsters and ordered them to repay their childcare allowance.In some cases this involved tens of thousands of euros, leaving families in deep financial troubles and impossible situations.
Asscher was Minister of Social Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister between 2012 and 2017, a period during which the Tax Authority was on this fraud witch hunt.
"Yes, I was Minister of Social Affairs during the previous large crisis that faced our country. No, I did not know that the Tax Authority started an unjust hunt on thousands of families," Asscher said.
He said that as Minister he changed and adjusted a number of laws because they went too far in hunting for fraud, and that he lowered fines for the same reason. He also worked on a better system for childcare allowance that never realized, he said.
"I accept it if people have criticism on what I did as Minister. Or if they are disappointed in what I did and did not achieve. But those who openly doubt my integrity or accuse me of bad intentions, they don't know who I am and why I do this job," Asscher said. "Over the past 20 years I stood for all children's right to a fair chance." He said he always chose the workers' side, and defended the strong rule of law.