Dutch Cabinet collapses over childcare allowance scandal
Prime Minister Mark Rutte gave a press conference explaining the Cabinet's resignation and what will happen from here on. NL Times wrote about it here.
The Rutte III cabinet collapsed due to the childcare allowance scandal. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will offer his cabinet's resignation to King Willem-Alexander, was announced on Friday after the Council of Ministers met for 2.5 hours. The Prime Minister will soon give a press conference.
Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate is stepping down with immediate effect, and will not form part of the outgoing cabinet, which will handle the current affairs until a new cabinet is installed.
The four coalition parties agreed that as outgoing cabinet, Rutte III will remain in charge of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, as Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said before the Council of Ministers. "In this area everything will stay the same. So there will still be a majority for the corona plans in parliament," a source close to the cabinet said to NOS.
Sources told RTL Nieuws on Friday morning that the CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie entered the Council of Ministers with the intention of withdrawing from the coalition. They were irritated by the VVD's refusal to resign the cabinet, and especially by Prime Minister Rutte's demand that the Ministers had to guarantee that their parliamentary parties would unanimously support the cabinet, the broadcaster wrote.
In the childcare allowance affair, thousands of parents ended up in serious financial problems after the Tax Authority wrongly labeled them fraudsters and ordered them to repay their childcare allowance. In some cases this involved tens of thousands of euros. The Tax Authority used ethnic profiling in its witch hunt, with dual-nationality being one of the criteria with which potential fraudsters were selected.
In December, a parliamentary committee of inquiry presented a report stating that the involved parents faced unprecedented amounts of injustice. And that cabinets, parliaments and even the judiciary all played a role in the suffering caused to tens of thousands of innocent parents. The committee said that Prime Minister Mark Rutte and members of government in both the current Rutte III and previous Rutte II cabinets are all partly responsible for the brutal fraud approach that led to this scandal.
Lodewijk Asscher, who was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the Rutte II cabinet, announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as leader of the PvdA and would not be running in the upcoming parliamentary election in March. He said he did not want discussions about his role in this scandal to stand in the way of the PvdA getting a good election result.
By announcing its resignation, the Rutte III cabinet is now officially an "outgoing cabinet". This means the cabinet resigned, but remains in office until a new cabinet is chosen, because someone has to run the country. The cabinet will still deal with current cases - which here means mainly the coronavirus pandemic - but controversial or sensitive subjects will be left to the next cabinet. What is controversial or sensitive will be determined by parliament and the Senate.
"Outgoing cabinet" is a state the Dutch political system is used to dealing with, as all cabinets are "outgoing" between the parliamentary election and a new cabinet forming. The Netherlands will be holding parliamentary elections on March 17, with some polling stations opening earlier this year to allow for more social distancing during the pandemic.