NL – Ank Bijleveld will offer her resignation as the defense minister. She said she felt she could no longer continue as Minister of Defense, because she can no longer carry out her tasks due to the debate that has arisen about her position, she said in a statement to the press. The CDA minister announced her departure on Friday afternoon at the Ministry of Defense. In the hours before that, it had already become clear within the party and at the Binnenhof that she would leave.
On Thursday evening, the Tweede Kamer passed a motion of censure against her because of the chaotic evacuations of Dutch personnel, citizens, aides, and family members from Afghanistan. A censure approved against Sigrid Kaag prompted her to announce her resignation as the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Thursday. She was largely praised for holding firm on her belief that a minister should step down when the Tweede Kamer censures them, though there is no requirement to resign at such a time.
Bijleveld announced her resignation at the ministry on Friday afternoon. Leaving the job was not her plan initially, she said in her statement. She wanted to stay on “to finish the task I’m facing.” She was referring, among other things, to the attempts to evacuate people from Afghanistan who can still travel to the Netherlands. “However, I notice that my stay has become the subject of debate.”
Defense employees must be able to do their jobs well, “and I don’t want me to get in the way of their important work,” Bijleveld said. That is why she informed CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra and Prime Minister Mark Rutte that she wanted to submit her resignation. She also stated that she had not been pressured to do so.
Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus will temporarily take charge of the Ministry of Defense until a replacement from within the ranks of the CDA is found. Nevertheless, it leaves the Ministry of Defence with a large leadership hole, as Bijleveld was not only responsible for her own portfolio, but also that of State Secretary Barbara Visser. At the end of last month, Visser was transferred to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Bijleveld spoke after the leadership of her party held crisis consultations about the situation. Party leader Wopke Hoekstra, the Minister of Finance, left a meeting of Cabinet ministers prematurely to consult about the Defense ministry situation. According to an insider, CDA party chair Marnix van Rij was also present.
Several CDA Cabinet members did not attend the weekly meeting at the Ministry of General Affairs on Friday. Hoekstra quickly left through an exit from the Tweede Kamer, and did not return until an hour later. He did not want to speak to the press when he entered.
Richard van Zwol, a party prominent who recently wrote a report about the course of the CDA, arrived at the party office of the CDA in The Hague early in the afternoon.
Bijleveld had already received considerable criticism from the Tweede Kamer during debates about the bombing in Hawija, Iraq, but she stayed on even then. Over the past six months, the caretaker minister also advised the top ranks of the CDA after the party suffered losses during the election, and as the party contended with internal strife.