It was a long and tumultuous debate about nothing less than the political survival of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (54).
Can he stay in office or not? Just two weeks after his party’s victory in the parliamentary elections, a vote of confidence against the long-time head of government was to decide on this.
The result, which only came in the middle of the night: Rutte survived the vote of confidence in parliament – albeit very narrowly.
On Friday night in The Hague, the opposition ultimately lacked a majority in favor of a no-confidence vote, but the parliament, with a large majority, expressed its deep disapproval of the head of government’s behavior. Its credibility has been seriously damaged.
What exactly is Rutte being criticized for?
Rutte had come under pressure because of his dealings with the MP Pieter Omtzigt from the Christian Democratic party CDA. This had helped to expose a scandal over child benefits, which led to Rutte’s resignation in January. His government has been in office since then.
Last week, on the sidelines of the deliberations on a new coalition, journalists photographed a note that suggested that Rutte had planned a ministerial post for his critic Omtzigt. The head of government initially stated that this was not an issue during the talks. When it came out that this was the case, Rutte emphasized that he hadn’t been able to remember it at first. It only occurred to him during a phone call on Thursday morning.
Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) emerged as the strongest force in the parliamentary elections in mid-March. Possible coalition partners are the center-left D66 party and the Christian Democrats.