Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his ministers completely resigned on Friday to take political responsibility for a scandal over investigations into childcare payments that wrongly labeled thousands of parents fraudsters. In a nationally televised address, Rutte said he had informed King Willem Alexander of his decision and pledged that his government would continue to work to compensate affected parents as quickly as possible and fight the Coronavirus.
“We are of one view that if the entire system fails, we must all take responsibility, and this has led to the conclusion that I just offered the king the resignation of the entire government,” Rutte said.
The move was largely symbolic. The Rota government will remain in power in caretaker status until a new coalition is formed after the March 17th elections in the Netherlands.
The resignation ends Rutte’s decade in office, though his party is expected to win the election, putting him first to start talks to form the next government. If he succeeds in forming a new coalition, Rota is likely to become prime minister again.
The Netherlands is the third European country to be thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst Coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government has resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition faces the risk of collapse after a small partner party withdrew its support.
Rutte said earlier this week that his government would be able to continue making tough political decisions in the battle against the coronavirus even if it was in a caretaker mode. The Netherlands is under strict lockdown until at least February 9, and the government is considering an overnight curfew amid concerns about new, more contagious types of the virus.
“I tell the Netherlands: Our fight against the Coronavirus will continue,” Rutte said.
On Thursday, the leader of the opposition Dutch Workers’ Party resigned because he was minister for social affairs in a governing coalition led by Rutte when the country’s tax office implemented a strict policy to track childcare fraud.
Ludiwijk Aschar’s decision put more pressure on Rute ahead of Friday’s cabinet meeting. The ministers had to decide on their reaction to a scathing report released last month called “Unprecedented Injustice” that said tax office policies violate “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” The report also criticized the government for the way it provided information to Parliament about the scandal.
Several wrongly accused parents plunged into debt when tax officials demanded payments. In the past, the government has apologized for the tax office’s methods and in March allocated 500 million euros ($ 607 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents.
One of these parents waited near Parliament where the cabinet met and said she wanted him to quit.
“It’s important to me because the government admits,” We made a mistake and we are taking responsibility, “Janet Ramsar told the AP,” because something happened to us. “
Rota plans to lead the Conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy in the March elections, and opinion polls indicate it will win the most seats. That puts Rutte, who has been in office for a decade at the head of three different coalitions, first in a bid to form the next governing coalition.
“It is very important to be accountable and also to demonstrate responsibility in the political sense, and we’ll talk about that in the cabinet. Today,” Deputy Prime Minister Cagsa Olungren, who is the interior minister, said upon entering the Friday meeting.