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Why Did the Dutch Government Suddenly Decide to Leave? Posted by on Jan 18, 2021 in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary, News

Last Friday, the Dutch regering decided that it was time to opstappen (resign). Minister-president (Prime Minister) Mark Rutte offered the ontslag (resignation) of his entire kabinet (cabinet) to the koning (king). The toeslagenaffaire was the big cause of the aftreding (resignation). What happened? And why now? And what does this mean for Nederland?

The kindertoeslagenaffaire

It’s a long word, but with a heavy load. The kindertoeslagenaffaire (child welfare fraud scandal), or sometimes simply toeslagenaffaire, is a complex situation in which about 26,000 ouders (parents) were accused of having received kindertoeslagen fraudulently. This started years ago, and over the years, ouders had to pay back large sums of kindertoeslagen that they had actually rechtmatig (rightfully) received.

To figure out what went wrong, a parlementaire vragencommissie (parliamentary inquiry commission) researched the topic. They found that this whole situation was grossly mismanaged, and the onrecht (injustice) has been going on for so long because of bad management and unclear hierarchies. Their schrijnend (distressing) report was finalized in December 2020. It led those in charge to take verantwoordelijkheid (responsibility) and to aftreden (step down). That’s why the aftreding (resignation) came now.

What does the aftreding mean for the Netherlands?


Kabinet-Rutte III with koning Willem-Alexander at Paleis Noordeinde in Den Haag at the time of the aantreden (taking office) of the new regering. Taken on October 26, 2017. (Image by Valerie Kuypers at Rijksoverheid.nl under license CC0)

Because of the aftreding, Rutte III is now demissionair (outgoing). They will continue being the kabinet until the next elections. It also means that the current kabinet is only keeping the ship afloat – they won’t meddle in gevoelige (sensitive) or omstreden (controversial) topics. Those are for the next kabinet! The legislative branch consisting of the Eerste Kamer and the Tweede Kamer decide on a list of topics that are gevoelig and omstreden. The demissionair government can’t just come up with this stuff by themselves.

Of course, the first worry is coronavirusbestrijding (fight against the coronavirus). How does a demissionair government deal with a crisis that requires sometimes quick and controversial decisions? Rutte had something to say about that:

Mentaal, praktisch, de facto blijft het kabinet missionair qua coronabestrijding.

(Mentally, practically, de facto, the cabinet remains in office in terms of the fight against corona.)

This isn’t just something he said, but also agreed upon with the oppositiepartijen (opposition parties). So regarding corona, nothing should really change because of the aftreding.

More Information on the aftreding

The video above is a great uitleg (explanation) about the toeslagenaffaire and the aftreding of the kabinet.

Do you want to read more on the topic? Here a few links to interesting Dutch articles on the matter.

Kidsweek, Kabinet stapt op: drie vragen (en antwoorden)

Trouw, Het kabinet is gevallen, maar de zelfreflectie ontbreekt bij de politiek

Information regarding the parlementaire ondervragingscommissie kinderopvangtoeslag

A collection of articles from NOS on the toeslagenaffaire

What do you think about the val van het kabinet (the fall of the cabinet)? Let me know in the comments below!


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.