All signs point to Dutch Cabinet stepping down today: Report
Today the Council of Ministers will make a final decision on whether or not the entire Rutte III cabinet will step down due to the childcare allowance affair. The Ministers separately met with the leaders of their parties VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie on Thursday night and will discuss how the coalition feels about the situation in the Council of Ministers on Friday. All signs point to the government stepping down, sources in The Hague said to NOS.
In the childcare allowance affair, hundreds 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.
A parliamentary committee of inquiry in December concluded that the Tax Authority breached the fundamentals of the rule of law in its fraud witch hunt and that affected parents faced "unprecedented injustice". The committee harshly criticized the way in which officials, judges, and Ministers handled the wrongly accused parents. Before that, the National Ombudsman said that the Tax Authority put hundreds of families in an impossible situation. And the Children's Ombudsman accused the Tax Authority of ignoring children's rights.
On Thursday, Lodewijk Asscher stepped down as the leader of the PvdA and announced that he will not be a candidate in the parliamentary elections in March. As Minister of Social Affairs and Employment between 2012 and 2017, he was a Minister while this witch hunt was happening. He said that he did not want the discussion about his role in this scandal to stand in the way of the PvdA getting a good election result in March.
Asscher's resignation puts even more pressure on the cabinet to take responsibility for the scandal. The Ministers already discussed the content of the committee's report multiple times. "The political consequences will be discussed tomorrow," Rutte said to NOS on Thursday evening as he left his office after meeting with the VVD. "I can't say anything about that in the media now."
Deputy Prime Minister Carola Schouten of ChristenUnie told the broadcaster that the "line" had been drawn in the consultation with her party. ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers said that "great injustice" was done to the victims in this scandal. "We want to be accountable." D66 leader Sigrid Kaag told the broadcaster: "We are talking about this in the Council of Ministers and we are clear about it."
Political expert Ron Fresen told NOS that it is no surprise that the coalition parties are being emphatically quiet. "They don't want to split up with a fight. The fall of this cabinet must happen without problems and without arguments or clashes of arms. A kind of silent fall."
The Council of Ministers meet at the Ministry of General Affairs every Friday afternoon. How long today's meeting will take, is not clear.