After taking responsibility for the mismanagement of childcare subsidies that led to the financial ruin of thousands of families unfairly accused of fraud, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday announced the resignation of his government.
“The rule of law must protect its citizens from the almighty government, and here it has failed in a huge way,” Rutte said at a press conference, adding that he had resigned from King Willem -Alexander.
However, the prime minister and his cabinet are expected to remain in office provisionally until the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 17. The objective, according to the Prime Minister, is not to leave the country without a government instituted in the face of the crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The resignation is the Dutch government’s response to a parliamentary inquiry which concluded in December that the country’s tax service bureaucrats had made serious mistakes in accusing thousands of families of fraud.
Some 10,000 families were forced to return thousands of euros to the government after being accused of irregularities in applying for grants, according to the investigation report.
Many of them were driven into unemployment, bankruptcy and divorce in what investigators called “unprecedented injustice”. Also according to the survey, in some cases, families were visited on the basis of their ethnic origin or dual nationality.
Orlando Kadir, a lawyer representing a group of around 600 families in lawsuits against the Dutch government, said several of his clients have been charged with fraud following an ethnic search by bureaucrats because their last names had “an alien appearance”.
At the head of the Dutch government since 2010, Rutte had already announced that he would run for a fourth term in the legislative elections in March. With the announcement of the resignation, it is still unclear whether the Prime Minister will maintain his intentions to run for office.
Its legend, the Liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), has lost some of its support after implementing tighter restrictions against the Covid-19 advance, but according to public opinion polls, he remains the favorite for the March election.
Rutte’s VVD has nearly 30% of the voting intentions, more than double the finalist, the center-right Party for Freedom (PVV).