Omtzigt note not PM Rutte's first slip of memory
On Thursday, VVD leader and departing Prime Minister Mark Rutte faced formal censure in parliament over a note from the cabinet formation process that mentioned critical CDA parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt and the words "function elsewhere". Rutte said on camera that he did not discuss Omtzigt with the formation pathfinders, but notes from that conversation showed that he did indeed. Rutte claimed not to remember making the statement that something had to be done with Omtzigt, "make him a Minister". This is not the first time the Prime Minister had politically sensitive information slip his mind. Here follows a summary of such previous slips compiled by ANP.
The Rutte III cabinet had a plan to scrap dividend tax for companies. This plan, which would cost the Dutch treasury 1.4 billion euros annually, formed part of the Rutte III coalition agreement made in 2017. Rutte insisted that he could not remember whether documents about the abolition of dividend tax were discussed during the formation negotiations. Though Eric Wiebes, then State Secretary of Finance, wrote a memo about it for his party - the VVD. Which makes it seem likely that Rutte saw it.
Halbe Zijlstra's resignation as Minister of Foreign Affairs
In early 2018, Halbe Zijlstra - a confidant of Rutte during the formation talks of 2017 - stepped down as Minister of Foreign Affairs after he was caught lying about visiting the summer residence of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Rutte said that he had "no active memory" of Zijlstra telling him about this visit before it broke in the media.
Civilian casualties of a Dutch bombing in Iraq
In 2019, Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld was under fire because in 2015 parliament was not informed about civilian casualties during a bombardment in Iraq performed by Dutch F16 fighter jets. In 2015, then Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told parliament that there was probably no Dutch involvement, while the Ministry must have known about the Dutch F16 deployment. When Rutte was asked in 2019 whether he was informed about this in 2015, he could not remember.
The infamous Teeven-deal
Rutte also had a lapse in memory around the infamous Teeven deal - a settlement deal then prosecutor Fred Teeven made with drug criminal Cees H. in 2000. H. received 4.7 million euros in that settlement, much more than was disclosed to parliament. The revelation resulted in the resignation of Fred Teeven as State Secretary and Ivo Opstelten as Minister of Security and Justice. Officials from the Ministry of General Affairs, Rutte's Ministry, knew about the details of the settlement. But Rutte said he knew nothing about it.
Back to the present
After the around 13 hour long parliamentary debate on the Omtzigt note, which ended during the early hours of Good Friday morning, Rutte said that he did not consider resignation for a second. He said that he was going to do his "stinking best" and work very hard to regain the trust of parliament and society.
Ayfer Kock, leader of the Enschede faction of the CDA and Omtzigt's wife, was annoyed by this statement. "It's getting worse and more stupid that arrogance of power," she said to ANP on Friday. "Surely this Prime Minister will never be able to restore confidence in the rule of law? This time calls for servant leadership. We are facing major problems that must be tackled structurally and decisively. We have to be done with putting out fires, hiding mistakes, lying, withholding important information from parliament, thwarting MPs, and working on image."