Thursday

25th Feb 2021

Dutch government resigns two months before election

  • The Dutch government of Mark Rutte, who has served three times as prime minister, has collapsed (Photo: Reuters/Michael Kooren)

The four coalition parties that form the Dutch government of prime minister Mark Rutte, on Friday (15 January) agreed to let the government fall.

Parliamentary elections in the Netherlands are due in two months time, on 17 March.

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On Friday, Rutte was due to meet the Dutch king to tender his resignation - although the government will stay on in a caretaker capacity until the March election.

The fall of the government was triggered by a report from a parliamentary investigative committee into a child allowances scandal.

The committee found that under a decision of a former government, also led by Rutte, tax inspectors accused thousands of families of fraud of the child support payments. Some of these families had to pay back large amounts of money - which pushed many into poverty.

It now appears those accusations were false.

Although all the parties agree that these families now need to be compensated, this scandal is about more than just compensation.

Minister for foreign trade and cooperation development, Sigrid Kaag, (who also heads the electoral list of the left liberal D66 party), said that trust in the institutions need to be restored as "the rule of law has been tarnished."

There is a parliamentary debate planned for Tuesday, where MPs will vote on a motion of confidence on the government.

Unsure of the outcome of this vote, the government on Friday decided not to wait and collapse Rutte's third term of office.

Impact on elections

Under the Dutch proportional electoral system every party has one national list. Their number one candidate is the face of the party, and their candidate for prime minister.

The current scandal, two months before the elections, has created political difficulties for several parties.

Opposition leader and top of the list of the Social Democrat party PvdA, Lodewijk Asscher, has resigned as a candidate in the elections. He was the responsible minister in the second Rutte government, who decided on the child allowances measures.

This decision made it difficult for Rutte not to resign as prime minister. Rutte is the number one candidate of the right-liberal VVD party in the elections. It is not clear if he will resign as a candidate himself.

The Christian Democrats (CDA) have the same problem. Their candidate, Wopke Hoekstra, is the current minister of finance and thus directly involved in the scandal.

In 2002 the Dutch government of Wim Kok resigned one month before elections after a report showed the Dutch army had a responsibility in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

In the elections that followed the government's resignation the ruling parties PvdA, VVD and D66 lost heavily.

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