Transparency deficit: Rutte under pressure

The child benefits scandal in the Netherlands has entered a new round: the minutes of cabinet meetings show that the government deliberately withheld important information from parliament and reprimanded MPs who were critical of its conduct. Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is in the middle of complex coalition negotiations, is now under fire for his understanding of leadership and democracy.

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NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

We must return to democracy

NRC Handelsblad points to fundamental structural problems and calls for a radical change of course:

“Especially now that the coalition talks and public debate are focusing on a new leadership culture, it's important that the Rutte government's practices are set out in black on white. However, the underlying problems are structural. Loyalty exists in every cabinet. Surprises are ruled out by means of thick coalition agreements that limit parliament's room for manoeuvre. 'Votes' take place - under the last Rutte government more than ever before - in an informal setting. ... This makes governments uncontrollable. Parties must make it clear in coalition talks how they intend to break with this culture. The voters have a right to know.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Just who is being shameless here?

Volkskrant columnist Sheila Sitalsing is appalled by what the minutes have brought to light:

“About half of the minutes contained the word 'decent'. We looked at each other expectantly at home - was this a member of the cabinet speaking, full of remorse, about the shameless way in which the state had run roughshod over its own citizens? Alas, no. It was all about MPs who had angrily told the secretary of state to fix everything the state had ruined [in dealing with the affected families]. That was 'shameless' of the MPs, the PM thought . ... Ruining people's lives is apparently okay - as long as you talk about it 'decently'.”