By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Europe searched for effective leadership Saturday after the collapse of several governments and an expected tough election for Germany’s next chancellor.
Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats were due to elect a new chairperson on Saturday, aiming to unite their conservative party behind a new leader. Party delegates hope the new chairperson can succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor when she steps down after federal elections in September.
At stake is the leadership of Europe’s biggest economy in the era after Merkel. She has vowed not to run again after becoming Europe’s predominant leader since taking office in 2005.
She proved a winner with German voters though tensions rose after she decided to allow more than a million migrants from mainly Muslim nations to enter the country.
Elsewhere in Europe, European countries were without governments Saturday after Cabinets collapsed over abuse of
power and corruption charges.
The Netherlands became the latest European Union nation where the entire Cabinet stepped down after tens of thousands of parents were wrongly accused of child welfare fraud.
Many people targeted by Dutch tax authorities had immigrant backgrounds. They were told to pay back child benefits on false fraud charges, plunging families into deep debt. Desperation led to divorces and even suicides, according to investigators.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who met some of the wrongly accused parents, acknowledged that “Innocent people have been criminalized and their lives ruined.” He added that responsibility for what had gone wrong lay with the cabinet. “The buck stops here,” he said before presenting his cabinet’s resignation to King Willem-Alexander.
Despite the resignation, the Liberal leader was expected to be re-elected after scheduled elections in March, with his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) leading in the polls.
Besides the Netherlands, the European Union member states Estonia and Italy faced political upheaval. In Estonia, the president tasked the leader of the main opposition party to form a new government after Prime Minister Juri Ratas and his Cabinet stepped down in a corruption scandal.
Kaja Kallas, chairwoman of the center-right Reform Party that won the 2019 general election, has 14 days to put together a new Cabinet, President Kersti Kaljulaid said.
Ratas and his Cabinet resigned Wednesday over a scandal involving a key official at his Center Party. The official was suspected of accepting a private donation for the party in exchange for a political favor on a real estate development at the harbor district of the capital, Tallinn.
Italy was also facing a political crisis Friday as the coalition government of centrist Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was in chaos Friday.
The crisis began after ex-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his tiny party from the Cabinet.
Renzi objects to Conte’s plans for spending 209 billion euro ($254bn) of EU recovery funds – part of a vast EU aid package for the coronavirus crisis.
The withdrawal of Renzi’s Italia Viva leaves Conte lacking a majority in the upper house, the Senate. A snap election is a possibility, but analysts suggest that Renzi has very low ratings in polls.
The turmoil in several EU member states comes as the increasingly fragile Union of 27 nations also deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of Britain’s exit from the bloc. Brexit has added to trade tensions and uncertainty in Europe.
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