Dutch Government resigns over child benefits scandal
The Dutch Government has resigned following a scandal involving child benefits that did “great injustice” to thousands of parents, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday.
Dpa news said the move comes just a few weeks before planned parliamentary elections in March.
The scandal saw some 20,000 parents falsely portrayed as fraudsters over child benefit payments and plunged into great financial hardship.
The rule of law in the country had failed across the board to “protect citizens against a powerful state,” Rutte said, adding that the resignation of his government was “unavoidable.”
Between 2013 and 2019 – while Rutte was in power – tax authorities reclaimed parents’ child benefits based on accusations of tax fraud that were later revealed to be false.
In December, a parliamentary commission sharply criticized the conduct of authorities, the government and the courts, saying that the “basic principles of the rule of law have been violated.”
The government has apologized to the parents and paid compensation of 30,000 euros (36,300 dollars) to each family.
However, Rutte’s government was placed under further pressure after leading Social Democrat Lodewijk Asscher, who was social minister until 2017, resigned over the scandal on Thursday.
The government’s resignation is likely to have little impact on the parliamentary elections that are planned for March 17, as Rutte’s VVD party is still leading the polls and he could form a new government.
The prime minister previously said the government would remain fully operational in terms of handling the coronavirus crisis, even if it stepped down.