Praveen Yadav | May 30, 2021 | 0
Dutch government resigns over child benefits scandal
The Dutch government has resigned amid an escalating scandal over child benefits in which more than 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraud by the tax authority. The move came less than a month before parliament was due to break up ahead of general elections scheduled for 17 March. Prime minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet is to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new coalition is formed after that vote.
“The government was not up to standard throughout this whole affair,” Rutte told a press conference. “Mistakes were made at every level of the state, with the result that terrible injustice was done to thousands of parents.” Political responsibility for the scandal lay with the current cabinet, he said, which had decided collectively that it had no option but to resign. “Things cannot ever be allowed to go so terribly wrong again,” Rutte said.
The prime minister, who has headed three coalition governments since 2010, said the government would continue to actively manage the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis. A strict lockdown will remain in place in the Netherlands until at least 9 February and a curfew is under consideration. Orlando Kadir, an attorney representing around 600 families in a lawsuit against politicians, said people had been targeted “as a result of ethnic profiling by bureaucrats who picked out their foreign-looking names”. The crisis comes with the Netherlands in the midst of the toughest lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Rutte considering even more curbs as infections surge. Even though public support for the government’s COVID-19 measures has dipped sharply in recent weeks, Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is still riding high in public opinion polls ahead of the March election.
Rutte’s party is projected to take just under 30% of the vote, more than twice that seen going to the second-placed PVV, the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders. Rutte has served since 2010, having won re-election twice.
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