The Dutch government is in bad shape. And that two months before the elections. A scandal from 2013 kills the Rutte cabinet.
On March 17, the Dutch voter will go to the polls, but it seems that those elections may well be brought forward. On Friday, the government of Mark Rutte will discuss whether it is necessary to resign after new information about a scandal involving child benefits from 2013 came out.
The crisis is the result of a long investigation into the actions of the tax authorities. In 2013, it was leaked that a Bulgarian gang had abused childcare benefits by coming to live in the Netherlands and claiming retroactively up to 8,000 euros. Once they had that, they disappeared with the northern sun. And because the tax authorities paid first and only checked later, they had already left before anyone discovered the fraud.
26,000 families falsely accused
After that was leaked, the tax authorities went into effect overdrive and tried to recover all the lost money. In its violence, the service falsely accused 26,000 families of fraud, who had to repay tens of thousands of euros. Protesting did not help and the families felt “powerless against the powerful institutions”. A parliamentary committee of inquiry published a report late last year accusing the government, tax authorities and parliament that “citizens were not getting the protection they deserved.”
In recent weeks, there have been crisis consultations within the Dutch government and today is leading to a peak. Prime Minister Rutte does not want to respond for the time being ‘because I cannot talk to the media before the Council of Ministers has discussed this’, but he does not rule out a fall. If one of the government partners thinks that a dismissal is necessary, everyone will leave together, they say.
The opposition has already put Rutte to the test. On Thursday, socialist party leader Lodewijk Asscher, who according to the report in the previous Rutte government was “responsible for the unprecedented injustice” as Minister of Social Affairs, decided to no longer stand for election in March.
This increases the pressure on Rutte not to continue his third government to the end. Later on Friday, the Dutch leader will respond to the report.