Time seems to run out for the minority government as seven weeks of talks to hammer out an austerity package aimed at bringing the Dutch budget deficit back within European Union limits collapsed Saturday April 21, 2012, the prime minister said, laying the blame squarely with anti-EU lawmaker Geert Wilders. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his minority Cabinet will hold a crisis meeting Monday April 23, 2012 to discuss what to do now. “Elections are the logical next step,” Rutte said, but he added that he wants to work with parliament to hammer out austerity measures before a poll can take place.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government, one of the most vocal critics of European countries failing to rein in their budgets, quit Monday after failing to agree on a plan to bring its own deficit in line with EU rules.
The government information service announced Queen Beatrix had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mark Rutt and his Cabinet after a meeting in which Rutte told her talks on a new austerity package had failed over the weekend.
Rutte is to address parliament Tuesday to discuss interim measures to keep public finances in order and schedule new elections. No date for elections was immediately announced, but opposition lawmakers called for a vote as soon as possible.
The Dutch government collapse came a day after the first round election victory of France’s soft-on-austerity socialist candidate Francois Hollande. It calls into question whether austerity policies that are causing trauma in countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal can be enforced even in “core” European countries such as France — or the Netherlands, one of the few along with Germany to maintain an AAA credit rating.
The Netherlands will go to the polls to choose a new parliament on June 9. But although, officially, Dutch voters will only be electing the 150 members of de Tweede Kamer, the real race will be fought out between the contenders for the highest Dutch office, that of prime minister.
Looking at the current polls, it seems to have become a showdown between four men: incumbent Jan Peter Balkenende, Labour challenger Job Cohen, right-wing liberal Mark Rutte and enfant terrible Geert Wilders. Their neck-and-neck race illustrates the fragmented political landscape of the Netherlands, where traditional parties no longer boast a loyal following. We’ll keep following this.