Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is called “Teflon Premier” because problems allegedly slide off him. But now an untruth brings him into trouble. Was he trying to get rid of an uncomfortable politician?
A good two weeks after the parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, the election winner and incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte found himself in great distress. The conservative head of government had misinformed parliament and created the impression that he wanted to get rid of an uncomfortable critic, MP Pieter Omtzigt.
In a turbulent special session of parliament, the 54-year-old fought for his political future on Thursday evening. Several opposition parties had asked the vote of confidence. It was unclear when it would be voted on. Should Rutte be withdrawn from trust, he would hardly be able to remain in office. He’s ruled the country for ten years.
The crisis was caused by a series of falsehoods and disguises during the first talks about the formation of a new coalition. A large majority of MPs believe that Rutte’s credibility has been damaged. The right-wing populist Geert Wilders called for new elections.
At the center of the affair is the Christian Democratic MP and Rutte critic Omtzigt. From the conversation notes it became clear that the Prime Minister would like to have him in a new position elsewhere in the future. But Rutter had previously denied that.
Rutte firmly denied the allegations. “I never, never intended to get rid of Omtzigt,” said the head of government. He deeply regretted the “chaotic situation” that had arisen. He asked parliament for confidence. “I want to go ahead and form a coalition with other parties to rule this country. And I hope that I get enough confidence for that.”
The affair brought talks about the formation of a government to a standstill. Numerous parties fear that there is no longer any basis of trust. Now it is considered to hire a neutral mediator.
Omtzigt is considered an uncomfortable opponent
In the election on March 17, Rutte’s VVD was again the strongest force. It was expected that he would form a coalition with the Christian Democratic CDA and D66 as well as a fourth partner. The first conversations were broken off last week after a confidential note became known. After that, the talks also dealt with another role for Omtzigt – outside of Parliament. Rutte had only denied that, but a note now proves the opposite. Rutte claims to have forgotten the remark.
Then a storm of indignation broke out. Green leader Jesse Klaver accused Rutte of “arrogance of power”. “Rutte’s time is over,” cried Wilders. Omtzigt is considered an uncomfortable MP. He and others had brought to light the child benefits affair that led to the government’s resignation in January.