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Published On: Fri, Sep 17th, 2021

D66-Minister Kaag steps down after motion of disapproval

THE HAGUE — Outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigrid Kaag stepped down in the night from Wednesday to Thursday after a majority of the Dutch parliament supported a motion of disapproval against her because of the messy evacuation of embassy staff and Afghans from Afghanistan. Kaag stays on as faction- and party-leader for D66.

The motion obtained a majority because coalition-partner Christian Union (CU) voted in favor. In the negotiations about the formation of a new government, Kaag has steadfastly refused to take part in an administration with the CU. In June, she compared the CU to “a rusty car”, or a part that is at a complete standstill. This week it was pay-back time, though CU-MP Don Ceder emphasized that his faction’s decision was taken on merit, not on political relations.

A motion of disapproval is a step below the more serious instrument of a motion of no-confidence and it does not require ministers to leave office. Kaag left all the same: “In my view about democracy and the culture of our administration, a minister has to go if her policy is disapproved.”

Kaag maintained that she supports the efforts made during the evacuation. “Your Chamber is of the opinion that I have acted irresponsibly. As the responsible minister I cannot do anything else than accepting your judgment.”

In April, the parliament supported a motion of disapproval against Prime Minister and VVD-leader Mark Rutte, but he refused to step down. Kaag said already at the time that a motion of disapproval would be reason for her to leave office.

Minister Ank Bijleveld (Defense) also had to take a motion of disapproval but she has decided to stay on her post. “I have made a different personal assessment,” was all Bijleveld wanted to say about her decision.

She did however point out the constitutional difference between motions of disapproval (that do not require ministers to step down) and motions of no confidence (that leave ministers no other option than stepping down).

Kaag will remain a key player in the formation-talks about a new government that have been dragging on now for six months. During the elections on March 17, D66 became the second-largest party with 24 seats behind Rutte’s VVD (34), but way ahead of CDA (16) and CU (5).

UPDATE:

On Friday, Defense-Minister Ank Bijleveld decided to step down after all. On Thursday she said that she had based her decision to stay on her post on “different considerations” but this triggered heavy criticism from her own party, the CDA. Party-leader Wopke Hoekstra said that he regretted Bijleveld’s decision to leave office. But within the party, many criticasters believe that her initial refusal to go showed that the CDA “lacked a moral and political compass.”

Bijleveld denied that she stepped down because of the criticism. “This should not be about me, but about the content,” daily newspaper Trouw quoted her.



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