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First Dutch female finance minister to quit over family concerns

First Dutch female finance minister to quit over family concerns
Sigrid Kaag, Netherlands finance minister. (Photo: Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg)

Dutch Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag said she will step down as the leader of Netherlands’ second largest political party citing her family’s concerns over the threats she receives from conspiracy theorists and right wing extremists.

“It is no secret where my dilemma lies: it is with my family,” Kaag told Dutch newspaper Trouw as she announced her decision to leave the leadership of progressive Democrats 66 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,” she said.

Kaag’s decision comes on the heels of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s surprise announcement on Monday that he’s leaving politics after his coalition government collapsed amid infighting over migration policy, throwing the Netherlands in limbo. 

Kaag has faced multiple death threats since she became the leader of the D66 party in 2020 and then the country’s first female finance minister in 2022, after winning a historic 24 seats in the election a year earlier, making her the second most powerful person in Dutch politics after Rutte. 

Her progressive politics and gender have often made her a target for attacks. Earlier this year, she was confronted by an angry mob carrying torches during a work visit. A man with a flaming torch was arrested outside her house last year.

In May, her two daughters asked Kaag to quit her job as they feared for her life. Kaag said she will remain as caretaker finance minister until the formation of the next cabinet. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Kaag said in response to a question on whether she plans to leave the Netherlands. A career diplomat by occupation, Kaag may consider taking up an international role. 

Kaag’s departure as finance minister will likely have an impact on the Dutch stance in the European Union. The Netherlands historically operates at the hawkish spectrum of the European Union, with Rutte leading the resistance to the pandemic recovery fund in 2020. Kaag engaged more with EU partners as she tried finding a balance with less conservative member states on tricky issues. 

Kaag resigned as the foreign minister in 2021 after the Dutch parliament condemned her handling of the Afghanistan evacuation crisis. She started her career at Royal Dutch Shell and has lived and worked in Beirut, Vienna, and Khartoum as part of her time in the diplomatic service and the United Nations. She led a mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons in 2014. 

The Dutch government’s collapse and Rutte’s subsequent announcement to quit politics are expected to throw policy into limbo as the new government could take a while to form after elections, which are expected in mid November. DM


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