Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced the resignation of his government, accepting responsibility for years of mismanagement of childcare subsidies, which wrongfully drove thousands of families to bankruptcy. Mark Rutte, who heads the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, said he had handed his resignation to King Willem-Alexander.
“The rule of law must protect its citizens from an all-powerful government, and here that’s gone terribly wrong,” Mark Rutte told reporters on Friday. The cabinet would remain in situ during a caretaker capacity to manage the coronavirus crisis for now, with an election already due on St Patrick’s Day.
The resignation follows a parliamentary inquiry last month that found bureaucrats at the tax service had wrongly accused families of fraud. The inquiry report said approximately 10,000 families had been forced to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies, in some cases resulting in unemployment, bankruptcies, and divorces, in what it called an “unprecedented injustice”.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Amsterdam, said: “The prime minister Mark Rutte said the foremost important thing now’s to compensate these parents for his or her loss and their suffering.“But he also said that each one of the documents and decisions made by the cupboard within the future is going to be hospitable to the general public. He doesn’t want to face any accusations again that things are happening behind closed doors.”
With some parents racially profiled during the investigation, the affair underscored criticisms of the Dutch state under Mark Rutte, including an addiction to frugality and a failure to tackle systemic racism. Orlando Kadir, a lawyer representing about 600 families, told Dutch radio people had been targeted “as a result of ethnic profiling by bureaucrats who picked out their foreign-looking names”.
The scandal has now tarnished the liberal leader’s carefully honed image as a plain-speaking, pragmatic politician whose traditional values have chimed with voters within the Netherlands since 2010. Rutte arrived for Friday’s crunch cabinet talks within the same low-key style he uses for the other day at the office – alone on his bicycle, jokingly nicknamed the “Rutte motorcade”.
The Netherlands is that the third European country that was thrown into political uncertainty within the week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the govt resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition is in danger of collapse after a little partner party withdrew its support.