Prime Minister Mark Rutte's four-party coalition government must decide on Friday whether to resign in the face of the scandal that saw thousands of families wrongly accused of fraud between at least 2013 and 2019, Dutch media reported.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Cabinet has said it is considering collectively resigning over a report that blamed the government for mismanagement of childcare subsidies that drove thousands of families to financial ruin.
A parliamentary inquiry last month concluded that "unprecedented injustice" had been done to innocent families, who were often forced to repay tens of thousands of euros of granted subsidies, leading to unemployment, bankruptcy or divorce.
Rutte, in office since 2010, said late last month that the affair, spanning almost the entire past decade, was "shameful."
Compensation of at least $36,500 (30,000 euros) is being paid to roughly 10,000 families.
The families this week filed charges against five politicians, including Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra and Economy Minister Eric Wiebes, for their role in the mismanagement.
Rutte called crisis talks with his entire Cabinet on Friday.
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Pressure on the cabinet
Opinion polls show Rutte's government has the approval of two-thirds of the public.
But political analysts said pressure on the government to resign grew after Lodewijk Asscher stepped down as head of the opposition Labour party and said he would not contest the March 17 parliamentary election as he felt he was partly to blame for the scandal.
Asscher, who was social affairs minister when his party was a coalition partner in a previous Rutte government, "not only puts more pressure on the cabinet, but also on individual party leaders," political pundit Tom-Jan Meeus wrote on Twitter.
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This is simply extraordinary. A country which has dedicated itself to allowing foreign companies to pay little or no tax, cheating on international norms, has used its tax authority to pursue thousands of families for benefit fraud which didn't exist.— Alex Cobham (@alexcobham) January 14, 2021
The subsidy scandal saw the tax office ruthlessly enforce repayments of subsidies, without giving families opportunity to show their innocence, the parliamentary committee found.
Political analyst Sophie van Leeuwen said the scandal was unlikely to hit Rutte in the election just two months away, given his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Voters don’t really care about the subsidies scandal because it is far removed for most of them. Rutte has high approval rates because he is good in the role of statesman guiding the Netherlands through the worst crisis since World War Two,” she told Reuters.
Responding to questions about his possible resignation, Rutte said on Tuesday his Cabinet would remain fully capable of managing Covid-19, even if forced into caretaker status.
The country is in the middle of the toughest lockdown of the pandemic and Rutte is considering stricter curbs.
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