After receiving threats from conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists, Dutch Finance Minister, Sigrid Kaag, announced she will resign as the leader of the country's second-largest political party.
Kaag told the Dutch tabloid Trouw, "It is no secret where my dilemma lies: it is with my family," as she announced her resignation as leader of the progressive Democrats 66 (D66) party. “My work has taken a toll on my children and my husband,” she said. “It is a fact that they are concerned. My safety is an issue for them.”
Despite being the second most influential person in Dutch politics behind Rutte, Kaag has received many death threats since becoming the leader of the D66 party in 2020 and the country's first female finance minister in 2022.
During her time as party head, she claimed she was "also accompanied by hate, intimidation, and threats," according to a statement she released. She explained that her family had to bear a great deal as a result of the situation.
As a progressive politician and a woman, she is frequently the subject of critics. During a business trip earlier this year, she was met with a raging mob brandishing torches. Last year, a man was nabbed outside of her home while carrying a lit torch. Kaag's two daughters begged her in May to leave her job because they feared for her safety.
“As a minister in various cabinets, party leader of D66 and as a person, she has meant a lot to the Netherlands. Privately, she had to pay an unacceptably high price for this,” Rutte said in a tweet Thursday.
“The fall of the cabinet was unnecessary and regrettable. There are still major challenges for the Netherlands,” Kaag said in the statement.
On Monday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigned, citing infighting regarding migration policy. Kaag's decision follows closely on its heels.
Her resignation follows those of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, who both announced that they would be leaving their positions as leaders of the Christian Democrats. At a time when the Farmer-Citizen Movement, also known as BBB, is gaining traction, this leaves three political parties in the caretaker government without significant leaders. After opposing the Rutte government's initiative to cut nitrogen emissions in half by 2030, the BBB grew to become the largest party in the Dutch upper house.
However, the two left-leaning parties GroenLinks and the PvdA have committed to merge in advance of the 2019 elections, which might change the political landscape.
The departure of Dutch Finance Minister Kaag is expected to affect the country's position inside the European Union. In 2020, Rutte will spearhead opposition to the EU's pandemic recovery fund, reflecting the Netherlands' traditional position at the organization's more hawkish end. To strike a middle ground with the EU's less conservative members, Kaag increased her interaction with the bloc's partners.
Kaag has stated that she will continue to serve as interim finance minister until a new cabinet is formed. She said, "I don't know what I'm going to do yet," when asked if she intended to leave the Netherlands. As a career diplomat, she may be considering a position on the global stage.
Kaag, who began her professional life with Royal Dutch Shell, has spent time in the diplomatic service and at the United Nations working in Beirut, Vienna, and Khartoum. She oversaw the 2014 campaign to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. She stepped down as foreign minister in 2021 when the Dutch parliament criticized her response to the Afghanistan refugee issue.