Mark Rutte was forced to resign after it was established that officials had terminated benefits for thousands of families wrongly accused of fraud and forced to retroactively return benefits.
In power for more than 10 years, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on January 15, 2021 his resignation and that of his government mired in a scandal over the tax administration which had wrongly accused thousands of parents of benefit fraud family. Mark Rutte, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, said he would settle current affairs until the March 2021 elections to avoid disrupting the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The rule of law must protect its citizens from an all-powerful government. It failed in a horrible way, ”said the head of the Dutch government at a press conference.
Mistakes Were Made Leading To Great Injustice To Thousands Of Parents
“Mistakes have been made, leading to a great injustice done to thousands of parents,” he added. At the heart of the scandal, more than 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraudulent family allowances, before being forced to reimburse them, which plunged some of them into serious financial problems. A handful of people booed Mark Rutte as he cycled out of government headquarters after announcing his resignation.
According to recent polls, his liberal-conservative party (VVD) could however be the first in the country again after the legislative elections of March 17, public opinion still largely supporting its management of the health crisis.
Each victim should receive 30,000 euros in compensation
“Our fight against the coronavirus continues”, assured the Prime Minister, adding that his resigning government “will do what is necessary in the interest of the country”. The 53-year-old politician – who led his third coalition government since coming to power in 2010 – was facing mounting pressure, with his cabinet risking a possible vote of no confidence in parliament next week.
A damning parliamentary inquiry report published in December 2020 established that officials ended the benefits of thousands of families wrongly accused of fraud between 2013 and 2019, before forcing them to return the benefits received over several years, either in some cases tens of thousands of euros.
Innocent people have been criminalized, their lives destroyed
The pressure on the four ruling center and right parties intensified on January 14 with the resignation of the leader of the opposition Dutch Labor Party (PvdA), Lodewijk Asscher, Minister of Social Affairs from 2012 to 2017 under the previous government coalition of Mark Rutte. MP Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) and known for his anti-Islam positions, deemed it “fair” that the government resigned. “Innocent people have been criminalized, their lives destroyed,” he said on Twitter.
Terecht dat het #kabinet aftreedt. Onschuldige mensen zijn gecriminaliseerd, hun levens verwoest en de Kamer is daarover onjuist en onvolledig geïnformeerd.
Maar ongeloofwaardig als de verantwoordelijken straks gewoon weer doorgaan als lijsttrekker. #toeslagenaffaire
– Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) January 15, 2021
The leader of the Green Left party, Jesse Klaver, another prominent voice who called on Mark Rutte to resign, meanwhile believed that the decision could constitute a “new start, a turning point” for the Netherlands.
Het kabinet treedt af. Het enige juiste besluit.
Laat says tegelijkertijd een nieuw begin zijn. Een keerpunt. Het moment waarop we eleven verzorgingsstaat weer op gaan bouwen. En waarop de overheid haar eigen burgers weer vertrouwt.
Op 17 maart is het aan de kiezer.
– Jesse Klaver (@jesseklaver) January 15, 2021
According to Dutch media estimates, this child benefit scandal has affected around 26,000 parents. It was also revealed that tax officials had “profiled” some 11,000 people on the basis of their dual nationality, including some of those affected by the family allowance case.
In December 2020, the Dutch government announced that it wanted to pay at least € 30,000 to each parent concerned over the next four months, but that was not enough to deflate the scandal. Victims lawyer Vasco Groeneveld filed a complaint on January 12 against three ministers in office and two former ministers, including Lodewijk Asscher.
Several concerned parents had posted a video the day before in which they called on the government to resign.