Dutch lawmakers have called for an urgent parliamentary debate after a media report claimed Prime Minister Mark Rutte had deleted text messages from his phone every day for years without proper oversight.
The scandal, dubbed “Nokiagate” by local media in reference to the retro Nokia phone that Rutte uses for much of his communication, broke out following a report by Dutch daily Volkskrant. The prime minister is said to have deleted text messages from his phone, which can only hold 20 messages, despite Dutch law stipulating that ministers’ correspondence must be retained to ensure public accountability.
“I have never consciously hidden important matters,” Rutte said at a press conference Wednesday in response to the allegations, and he denied breaking the law. “I’m not a big fan of smartphones,” he added, but admitted he would now switch to one.
This is not the first time the longtime centre-right prime minister has been embroiled in a texting scandal. In 2018, he was accused of deleting a post from former Unilever CEO Paul Polman asking him to scrap a dividend tax.
Lawmakers from all political walks of life criticized Rutte for his actions.
“The Prime Minister erased his hard drive…at the end of each day. A perfect way to deny any problem you were involved in,” said Socialist Party leader Lilian Marijnissen. wrote on Twitter.
“Can we clear this cabinet?” Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party wrote on social networks.
A debate is expected to take place on Thursday, before which lawmakers have said they want Rutte to submit a letter explaining his actions.