On the dysfunction of resignation in politics

The death of police officer Thomas Montjoie in Schaerbeek this weekend continues to raise questions? Who is responsible between justice, police, hospital, de-radicalisation services? Nobody at the moment. Therefore, the question of the possible resignation of the Minister of Justice Vincent Van Kuckenborn is hardly mentioned.

From the ongoing investigation

At the political level, only Vlaams Belang is demanding the resignation of the justice minister. Vlaams Belang follows the demand of the two leaders of the police union, the SLFP and the SNPS. But the other opposition parties, neither N-VA nor PTB, neither undertake nor call for this resignation. And no one is calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Annelies Verlinde.

In yesterday’s hearing, Vincent Van Quickenborne recalled the report of the Brussels public prosecutor’s office, which showed that due process was respected. The possible responsibility is mostly related to the connection between the Saint Luc Hospital, where the future killer was taken, and the police, where he was released. At this stage, however, the case is only in its infancy, so it is the fault of the procedures. Sauf new development we are heading for a good old dysfunction. A phrase made famous by Dutroux’s work is that actors act normally with dysfunctional procedures. For example, the exchange of information between the police and the gendarmerie was broken at that time.

resignation rules

Does a malfunction that causes a person’s death justify resignation? There are no rules regarding resignation. Let’s put aside health resignations, career change resignations (resignations due to political inconsistency like the recent resignation of Jean Luc Crucke) and stop resignations due to guilt, error or responsibility.

In these cases, there is no rule or custom other than to intervene in a minister’s resignation when the cost of keeping him appears greater than the price of his departure. In other words, a minister resigns when his retention is considered more of a handicap than an asset by his party and government.

Take the latest case, Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke resigned after abuses at kindergartens in the north of the country. The minister was not personally responsible, but there were failures in the control systems of the kindergarten. He had to leave the government because his party no longer supported him. The new president, Sammy Mehdi, wanted to turn the page and appoint another leader. Moreover, no one within the government of Jean Jambon could contain him, to say the least.

From Van Quick and Tobback

Vincent Vanquickenborne is not (yet) in Wouter Becke’s situation. He’s not (yet) in Louis Tobback ’98 condition. This work remained popular. The Interior Minister resigns following the death of Semira Adamu, an asylum seeker who was strangled by police while being deported in 1998. At the beginning it is also mentioned about the violation of functions. In this case, the popular so-called “pillow” procedure, which is applied with enthusiasm. Louis Tobback stays put, but when it turns out that one of the gendarmes is already on trial for violence against asylum seekers, there is a definite flaw in the gendarmerie. Tobback resigns within an hour.

Some see it as a textbook case of serious service failure = resignation. But he doesn’t just go to school. I repeat, the resignation is not a matter of principle, but a matter of political calculation. In the late 1990s, after the Dutroux affair and the white march, the political calculus shifted in favor of resignation in the face of sudden dysfunction under citizen pressure. Resignation during Dutroux’s escape, resignation during the Semira case, resignation during the Dioxin case, resignation during the Augusta case.

Today, it’s important to note that resigning due to malfunction or lack of service is becoming less consistent over time. The failure of Jan Jambo to resign after the attacks in Brussels made this clear. O tempora O more…

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