The resignation of Cabinet Rutte III was a fall in slow motion. The landing had to be soft, too, so as not to make too many lumps in the middle of a huge crisis. Only Minister Eric Wiebes (Economic Affairs) will be permanently removed.
It cannot and must not go so horribly wrong again, says Mark Rutte Friday afternoon about the payment affair. He therefore offers the resignation of his third cabinet. In the meantime, he continues as the leader of his VVD. Like current cabinet members Wopke Hoekstra (CDA) and Sigrid Kaag (D66). “It is up to the electorate to determine how many seats the parties receive in the elections,” says Rutte.
The now demissionary Prime Minister has done his best to make the Cabinet drop as calmly and in a coordinated manner as possible. Consultation after consultation, the Cabinet has been working in recent weeks towards the conclusion that has been seen as inevitable since this week. But the bud before the fall has been laid much earlier.
Because already before the summer there is a shiver about the Binnenhof when the House of Representatives votes in favour of a plan to organise a parliamentary questioning on the payment affair. This is due to a small skill of GL-MP Bart Snels, who realises that the parliamentary survey requested by SP will never get the green light from the coalition.
Snels is therefore working for months on a proposal for a parliamentary questioning that the SP can also live with. And the coalition, after all the suffering that has been inflicted on the parents, cant possibly refuse a proposal to sort the case out. The Chamber agrees and in particular GL is in a hurry to set up the interviews. A political thriller announces itself, starring political leaders who have to expose their buttocks under oath a few months before the elections.
Pvda leader Lodewijk Asscher, during his interview in November, has to go deep into the dust for his contribution as Minister of Social Affairs in the previous cabinet. And Minister Eric Wiebes (Economic Affairs) leaves the Chamber with his head bent, after the Chamber has washed his ears over his previous position as Secretary of State for Finance.
The report of the interrogations hits like a bomb just before Christmas. Commission President Chris van Dam invariably says during the interrogations that no conclusions will be drawn. But in the report, the judgement is broadly blown and the Cabinet, Chamber, Executive Services and Justice are all disappointed.
In The Hague is immediately told that this may mean the end of the cabinet. Another option that is mentioned is the departure of Wiebes. Its gonna be both. The Cabinet falls, continues demissionarily, but without the VVD Minister. Wiebes now wants solutions and no Haagse perikels and so he quit. “Then we can skip that political chapter.” Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Infrastructure) takes over his post for the time being, the VVD is still looking for a replacement for the coming months.
The fall of the cabinet and the departure of Wiebes follow after weeks of slow talk about the consequences of the supplement affair. During this period, the PvdA regularly picks up the spotlight with internal conjectures about its own leader Asscher, who ultimately sacrifices himself this week, thereby increasing the pressure on the cabinet to follow his example.
The Cabinets decision in Catshuis-submit to broader compensation, in any case 30,000 euros for each parent affected. The VVD doesnt want to know during those disembarkation calls. Other parties do put the political question on the table. But no one wants to give an answer.
Everyone knows this week that the cabinet is finally leaving, although the coalition parties are holding the cards on their chest until Fridays all-decisive Council of Ministers. Everywhere there is a realization that the image is not good anyway. Leaving as a cabinet in the midst of the biggest crisis since World War II may not make a vigorous impression. But just sitting there until the elections would show that the Cabinet is letting off the blame for the misery of thousands of ancestors. So Rutte prematurely massages the message that the cabinet will continue to conscientiously manage the coronacrisis, demissionary or not.
Hugo de Jonge
“We will continue to do our work in exactly the same way,” says coronaminister and Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge Friday afternoon. Guarantees that it will go smoothly, Rutte can not give. In any event, the coalition parties will maintain their weekly consultations on Monday.
And De Jonge states that the ministers also thought about how to make it clear to the Netherlands that they do not have to worry: “I tried to explain it to my daughter and that is not easy. You see a retreatingcabinet and thinks: oh dear. And I understand that too.”
Parliamentary reporter Alexander Bakker is in The Hague. Follow the news from The Hague via his tweets.