By: V4 Agency
He lied in parliament, only just survived a censure vote, and had to take responsibility for a family support scandal that actually made life more difficult for families. Several of his ministers have had to resign over the years because they have been embroiled in corruption and other scandals. Despite all this, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte still criticises others.
The Dutch Prime Minister likes to depict himself as the champion of the rule of law and credibility, yet his career is surrounded by scandals. He and his entire government were forced to resign this January due to the outbreak of the scandal around the family support scheme.
Hundreds of families were put in a dire financial situation when starting in 2012, the Dutch tax authorities treated them as fraudsters withdrawing their childcare support, and in many cases ordering them to repay thousands of euros. The practice was most commonly applied in families where the parents had dual citizenship. The national ombudsman and an inquiry committee of the Dutch parliament concluded that the tax office had violated the rule of law, disregarded children’s rights and caused severe financial hardship for several families.
“According to the inquiry, the current third and former Rutte-led governments are responsible for the suffering imposed on innocent families,” the local press wrote.
A group of parents who have been victims of the abuse by tax authorities filed a lawsuit against five current and a former minister, accusing them of gross criminal negligence through a failure of good governance.
The Rutte government then resigned, remaining in office until the March elections, after which he could form a government again.
He lied in parliament
In 2019, the Lower House initiated acensure vote against the prime minister after it turned out that he had lied about how he made a controversial decision on a tax on dividends. Rutte lobbied the Dutch legislature to abolish the tax, which was intended to allow the multinational food producer Unilever to keep its European headquarters in Rotterdam.
However, Dutch MPs released a 50-page document package which revealed that the prime minister was actually lobbying for Unilever. Rutte had previously stated in parliament that he “did not recall” such memos being prepared and then attempted to block the documents’ release. The parliament then called a motion to censure, or formally rebuke, Rutte, which was eventually rejected by a narrow majority of MPs.
His ministers also misled the parliament
Rutte has lost several of his ministers since 2015 after it came to light that the politicians had misled parliament and became untrustworthy.
Last May, minister for migration Mark Harbers resigned over an annual report submitted to parliament containing manipulated data on crimes committed by migrants.
In the report, misdemeanours such as shoplifting had their own separate categories while statistics for serious crimes that divide Dutch society – such as sexual assault and murder – were lumped together under the category “other”. Rutte acknowledged Habers’ resignation, but posted a comment on Twitter, saying “it is incredibly regrettable that the cabinet has to say goodbye to a talented and committed liberal”.
Politiek kan hard zijn. Respect voor het besluit van staatssecretaris Harbers om af te treden. Zijn afweging is zuiver. Maar ongelooflijk spijtig dat we als kabinet afscheid moeten nemen van deze talentvolle en betrokken liberaal. — Mark Rutte (@MinPres) May 21, 2019
Earlier, two ministers and a deputy minister in his government were also forced to resign after it was revealed that they were on the payroll of a drug trafficker captured in 2001 and received bribes from him. Justice Minister Ard van der Steur stepped down in January 2017, while his predecessor in the office, minister Ivo Opstelten and his deputy Fred Teeven were forced to leave in 2015. The latter two officials were found to have lied to parliament’s committee of inquiry about the bribes amounting to 2 million euros paid by the drug lord.