Kaag hopes the hatred, harassment she experienced won’t deter women from politics

July 13, 2023  –THE HAGUE – Departing D66 leader Sigrid Kaag hopes that the hatred and harassment she experienced in recent years will not prevent other women from entering politics. She said this in an explanation of her decision not to lead the D66 in the parliamentary elections. 

Kaag said she has struggled for a long time with the balance between the responsibility she feels and the interests of her family, which suffered from the threats, insults, and allegations against her. “I am a dutiful person,” she said. But the concerns of her husband and daughter ultimately weighed more heavily. “That’s my foundation.” 

Kaag’s two daughters recently said on the television program College Tour that they were worried about the serious threats against their mother. Kaag said that this was not the moment that made her decide to stop, but it did have an impact. She said her husband is also “happy and relieved” that she is leaving politics. 

Kaag said she is at peace with her decision to stop but warned of the “precarious social situation” that led to this. The political debate is less and less about substance and is increasingly taking the form of “character assassination,” she said. “Discussions are no longer conducted along the lines of fact.” 

Kaag denied that her departure is related to criticism that she has not fulfilled her promise of new leadership. “We entered a coalition that was not our preference,” she said. Despite that, she thinks that the coalition agreement bore a “clear D66 stamp” and that her party was able to provide Ministers and State Secretaries “of formidable caliber.” 

Kaag paid an unacceptable price: PM Rutte 

Prime Minister Mark Rutte praised Kaag after she announced her decision to leave politics. “I admire her courage and thank her for our good cooperation in recent years and for her unbridled commitment to our country,” said the departing Prime Minister. 

Rutte believes Kaag has ‘meant a lot” for the Netherlands as D66 leader and Minister in the last two Cabinets, but also as a person. “Privately, she had to pay an unacceptably high price for this,” said the Prime Minister. 

MPs furious that Kaag was forced out by threats, harassment 

There is anger in the lower house of the Dutch parliament about the threats and harassment that made Kaag decide not to continue in national politics. Kaag said she does not want to put her family through that again. 

“The dirt and threats that Sigrid Kaag had to deal with harms our democracy,” said D66 party chairman Jan Paternotte. “We will never accept that. Whether you are D66 or PVV, it is insane that anyone who wants to serve the Netherlands must give up freedom.” 

“It is unacceptable that the roughening of the game in politics leads to harassment and threats that cause politicians to drop out,” said CDA party leader Pieter Heerma. “Respect for Sigrid Kaag’s decision. Your family comes first.”

PvdA leader Attje Kuiken found Kaag’s departure “not entirely surprising after very intense political years, but regrettable.”

She called the D66 Deputy Prime Minister “a sincere person, a passionate politician with her own style, and a progressive ally.” 

VVD MP Ruben Brekelmans called Kaag’s departure “a personal drama” but also a defeat for democracy. “Apparently, you can get rid of a top politician through harassment and threats. Let this be a wake-up call. Together we must ensure that this does not become a precedent.” 

“How far we have sunk as a country that this is happening,” said GroenLinks MP Corinne Ellemeet. “How ashamed I am of this. What a great task there is to restore respect and decency, especially to politicians.’ Volt leader Laurens Dassen called Kaag’s reason for leaving politics “painful” and spoke of “threats that work deep into the private sphere.” He said he has “great appreciation” for Kaag as a politician. “Driven, open to the world, and a warm person.” 

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