As if the Netherlands wasn't already in its worst crisis since World War II.

The country is currently discussing a curfew: In the evenings and at night it should be forbidden to stay on the street for no reason.

This has not happened since the German occupation.

The hospitals have long been working to the limit, the staff is exhausted, and there are huge concerns about the British mutation of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

Nevertheless, on Friday morning, Prime Minister Mark Rutte apparently in a good mood rides his bicycle to the Council of Ministers in the Binnenhof, the centuries-old government complex in The Hague.

He drives briskly, jumps off his bike, while camera teams and dozens of journalists run after him in vain.

Rutte only tells them: "Before I speak to you, I will consult with my ministers."

But this morning it is not about the next tough measures in the corona pandemic.

It's about the political survival of his government.

The third cabinet of the right-wing liberal Rutte, a long-time companion of Chancellor Merkel, is on the brink.

Because the country's tax authorities made inconceivable mistakes years ago.

As a result, thousands of parents had to reimburse them for child entry allowances.


This brought many to the edge of their existence.

Quite a few lost their incomes, their homes, their jobs.

“Zero tolerance” backfired


A scandal for which the State Secretary Menno Snel had to resign years ago, and the head of the tax authority Jaap Uijlenbroek also resigned.

Even the director of the financial police, Hans van der Vlist, only had to withdraw.

This week the mistakes of the past caught up with the entire government.

The results of a commission of inquiry are overwhelming.

On Thursday, the former deputy prime minister, Lodewijk Asscher, now the top candidate of the Social Democratic Workers' Party, announced his resignation from politics because of the affair.

In the middle of the hot phase of the election campaign.

It was the snowball that set off an avalanche.

It started in 2013, when the tax authorities should show a hard hand in the so-called “Bulgarian fraud”.

Care grants were paid to families from Eastern Europe whose children did not even live in Holland.

Parliament asked the Treasury Department to have "zero tolerance" on the persecution.

But that backfired.

Many people with dual citizenships have been wrongly criminalized and stigmatized and discriminated against as suspected fraudsters because of their family names.

According to studies, this practice lasted until 2019.

It's about a lot of money.

Childcare is very expensive in Holland, especially in cities like Amsterdam.

Parents pay many thousands of euros a month for a few days of care per week, which is often a large part of their income.

You have to advance this, but can later claim back part of the tax.

A parliamentary commission of inquiry was set up in The Hague last summer.

The question was: "What did Rutte's government know and when?" For years, the discriminatory, grossly illegal procedure had endangered livelihoods.

That's why the opposition wanted to find out why it took until 2019 for action to finally take place.

It was only at this point that the government announced that it would pay compensation.


When the commission presented its report a few weeks ago, the conclusion was correspondingly devastating: there is talk of “unheard of injustice”.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, actually busy fighting the pandemic day and night, initially commented evasively on the report: On the one hand, the government must react to the injustice that has been identified.

"On the other hand, the crisis calls for an energetic government."

The promised financial compensation for the 22,000 parents who were persecuted and criminalized by the tax authorities was already half a billion euros in March 2020.

Some parents had plunged sluggishness and demands for payment into debt and depression.

At Christmas, the opposition had urged Prime Minister Rutte to make a one-off payment of 750 euros to his parents.

In addition, each affected family should receive an additional 30,000 euros in compensation by spring.

In addition, some of the victims have now filed lawsuits against politicians.

In the end, the proven guilt was too heavy.

Prime Minister Rutte announced the resignation of the entire government on Friday afternoon.

When asked how things would go with his cabinet now, he replied: “The vaccination and the economic aid packages are ongoing.

The people in the country expect us to keep working.

I will stay on the ball with Corona. ”That means that the Christian Democrat will continue to work in an executive role despite the fall of the cabinet until a new government is elected.

Seen in this way, it is a resignation that is not.


On Friday there was a big Mea Culpa: "It was all terrible," said Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

It was your party of coalition partner Democrats 66 that ultimately forced the government to give up.

Rutte's Liberals from the VVD, so you can hear behind the scenes, would have liked to continue anyway.

Prime Minister Rutte, who in the ten years of his governmental responsibility always found time for one hour of political lessons per week at a Hague school in the migrant district of Schilderswijk, said of his resignation: “I am ashamed of what happened.

It must not be discriminated against. ”Migrant families were particularly affected.

Rutte said: "The rule of law has a duty to protect the weaker against an all-powerful authority."

As a consequence, the “managing” Prime Minister Rutte now wants to offer at least significantly more transparency.

Government decisions, but also internal documents of the authorities on the subject, should be publicly available in the future.

Opposition leader Geert Wilders from the right-wing populist PVV was still dissatisfied: “He just stays where he is.

And will continue as if nothing had happened. "

It looks like the parliamentary elections are expected to take place in March as planned.

The newly retired Rutte will now campaign for his re-election.

He has a good chance.

Its competitors are weak.