SOURCE: NL TIMES.
AMSTERDAM:--- 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 meets at the Ministry of General Affairs every Friday afternoon. How long today's meeting will take, is not clear.
Dutch Cabinet collapses over childcare allowance scandal
The Rutte III cabinet collapsed due to the childcare allowance scandal. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will offer his cabinet's resignation to King Willem-Alexander, was announced on Friday after the Council of Ministers met for 2.5 hours. The Prime Minister will soon give a press conference.
Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate is stepping down with immediate effect, and will not form part of the outgoing cabinet, which will handle the current affairs until a new cabinet is installed.
The four coalition parties agreed that as outgoing cabinet, Rutte III will remain in charge of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, as Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said before the Council of Ministers. "In this area, everything will stay the same. So there will still be a majority for the corona plans in parliament," a source close to the cabinet said to NOS.
Sources told RTL Nieuws on Friday morning that the CDA, D66, and ChristenUnie entered the Council of Ministers with the intention of withdrawing from the coalition. They were irritated by the VVD's refusal to resign the cabinet, and especially by Prime Minister Rutte's demand that the Ministers had to guarantee that their parliamentary parties would unanimously support the cabinet, the broadcaster wrote.
In the childcare allowance affair, thousands 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. The Tax Authority used ethnic profiling in its witch hunt, with dual-nationality being one of the criteria with which potential fraudsters were selected.
In December, a parliamentary committee of inquiry presented a report stating that the involved parents faced unprecedented amounts of injustice. And that cabinets, parliaments, and even the judiciary all played a role in the suffering caused to tens of thousands of innocent parents. The committee said that Prime Minister Mark Rutte and members of the government in both the current Rutte III and previous Rutte II cabinets are all partly responsible for the brutal fraud approach that led to this scandal.
Lodewijk Asscher, who was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the Rutte II cabinet, announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as leader of the PvdA and would not be running in the upcoming parliamentary election in March. He said he did not want discussions about his role in this scandal to stand in the way of the PvdA getting a good election result.
By announcing its resignation, the Rutte III cabinet is now officially an "outgoing cabinet". This means the cabinet resigned but remains in office until a new cabinet is chosen, because someone has to run the country. The cabinet will still deal with current cases - which here means mainly the coronavirus pandemic - but controversial or sensitive subjects will be left to the next cabinet. What is controversial or sensitive will be determined by parliament and the Senate.
"Outgoing cabinet" is a state the Dutch political system is used to dealing with, as all cabinets are "outgoing" between the parliamentary election and a new cabinet forming. The Netherlands will be holding parliamentary elections on March 17, with some polling stations opening earlier this year to allow for more social distancing during the pandemic.