Dutch government could resign today over childcare subsidies scandal

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Nevin Al Sukari – Sana'a – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy speaks after a televised debate on the eve of European elections in Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 23, 2019. — Reuters pic

AMSTERDAM, Jan 15 — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his ministers will decide today whether to resign over the government’s mismanagement of childcare subsidies, which a parliamentary inquiry found last month had driven thousands of families to financial ruin.

The inquiry report said around 10,000 families had been forced to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies after being wrongfully accused of fraud, leading to unemployment, bankruptcy or divorce. It described such mismanagement over a decade as an “unprecedented injustice”.

Pressure for the government to resign mounted this week as Rutte’s coalition partners said the option needed to be seriously considered and the leader of the opposition Labour party stepped down yesterday over his role in the affair.

Rutte said late yesterday that he expected the fate of his government to be decided during a Cabinet meeting scheduled to start at 1000 GMT.

“I expect the question of our political future to be tabled then,” he told reporters after a crisis meeting with ministers from his own party.

Ministers from the other government parties said yesterday night that they had made up their minds, but declined to comment any further.

If Rutte hands his resignation to King Willem-Alexander later today, it would mark the first government collapse since 2012, when Rutte’s first administration fell apart over disagreements on austerity measures.

The crisis comes just two months before a parliamentary election on March 17 and as the Netherlands is in the middle of the toughest lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic. Rutte is considering even more curbs as infections surge.

Responding to questions about his possible resignation, Rutte said on Tuesday his Cabinet would remain fully capable of managing the Covid-19 crisis even if forced into caretaker status. — Reuters

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