Dutch Premier Faces No-Confidence Vote Over Backroom Dealing
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Mark Rutte will face a no-confidence vote in the Dutch parliament Thursday over allegations that he lied about trying to sideline an outspoken member of another political party.
If the motion passes, Rutte would have to step down from his role as head of the current caretaker government and he would cease trying to form a new coalition, just weeks after he won a March 17 election. The vote will take place after a debate that could last hours.
Last week, Rutte denied that he discussed moving a lawmaker who helped unearth a childcare subsidy scandal that brought down the government to a new post that would sideline the outspoken whistle-blower.
However, it was revealed in notes made public Thursday that Rutte, a member of the Liberal party, did in fact bring up the idea of trying to disarm Christian Democrat lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt with a government post.
“I did not lie,” Rutte reiterated several times in Parliament Thursday. “I talked in good conscience to the press,” he said, adding that he remembered the talks differently.
If he loses the vote, Rutte will step down as caretaker prime minister and abandon efforts to form a new government. This would either trigger a new election or the task of trying to form a coalition from the March election results could move to someone else, such as Sigrid Kaag, leader of the pro-European D66 party that finished behind Rutte’s in the last ballot.
The main focus of the next government will be to get the pandemic under control and rebuild an economy devastated by the Covid crisis. Dutch output shrank by 4.1% last year and the European Commission is forecasting an expansion of just 1.8% for 2021, the weakest in the EU.
Rutte, 54, is one of the longest serving premiers in Dutch history and just secured a fourth term in office. Leading one of the smallest countries in the European Union, Rutte punches above his weight and has a record of being a political survivor.
“There is damage, severe damage,” Kaag told lawmakers on Thursday. “Is it still possible to restore that? That is the crux of the debate.”
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