Dutch government resigns over child benefits scandal

Prime Minister Mark Rutte remains unscathed and will run for a fourth term in a general election to be held in two months.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff ,

Mark Rutte
Mark Rutte
Reuters

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government resigned on Friday over a child benefits scandal in which thousands of parents were falsely accused of fraud, but Rutte has remained unscathed and will run for a fourth term in a general election to be held in two months, Politico reported.

The Dutch Prime Minister’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is leading in the polls and projected to win 39 seats, six more than in the 2017 ballot.

“I believe that I can continue as a party leader, but it’s ultimately up to the voter,” Rutte said Friday, adding that he “had no direct involvement” in the benefits scandal, which lasted from 2013 to 2019.

Ministers from the four-party coalition will stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new coalition is formed.

“With this decision, the government wants to do justice to all those parents who have been unprecedentedly wronged,” Rutte added, according to Politico. “The rule of law should protect citizens from the all-powerful government and that has gone horribly wrong here.”

Rutte had previously said he was opposed to dissolving the coalition, saying the Netherlands needs stability during the coronavirus pandemic, but other coalition parties believed political consequences were unavoidable in the wake of a scathing parliamentary report.

The scandal has been hanging over the head of the Dutch government for two years, since journalists discovered that senior officials at the tax office had withdrawn or tried to claw back child care subsidies from around 26,000 parents without any evidence of fraud.

The authorities singled out 11,000 dual-nationality families for special scrutiny. Many families were forced to pay back tens of thousands of euros with no means of redress, plunging them into financial and personal hardship. In 2019, State Secretary of Finance Menno Snel from the social-liberal D66 party stepped down over his involvement in the scandal.

However, a report from a parliamentary committee of inquiry published in December found that senior civil servants, judges, members of parliament and ministers had behaved improperly in the affair. The report concluded that the “fundamental principles of the rule of law had been violated.”

On Friday, Rutte vowed to make policymaking more transparent by making official documents that form the basis of political decisions public, as well as publishing a list of decisions made after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

This marks the second time an administration led by Rutte has resigned. In 2012, the first Rutte Cabinet collapsed after right-wing leader Geert Wilders walked out of negotiations on austerity measures.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)



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