When Dutch MP Geert Wilders was acquitted after a long court case in which he had been accused of “hate speech’ against Muslims, the judge accepted his claim that his statements were directed at Islam and not at Muslim believers. They were, the judge ruled, “acceptable within the context of public debate”. On Saturday, MP Wilders laid the groundwork for the fall of the government. Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) walked out of talks aimed at cutting 16bn euros from the budget. Wilders refused to accept the austerity demands to bring the budget deficit in line with EU rules, and today Prime Minister Mark Rutte, stepped down and called for early elections.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has tendered his government’s resignation to Queen Beatrix, paving the way for early elections.
His cabinet was plunged into crisis when Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) quit talks aimed at slicing 16bn euros (£13.1bn) from the budget.
Mr Wilders refused to accept austerity demands to bring the budget deficit in line with EU rules.
His party was not part of the coalition but supported the minority government.
Dutch broadcaster Nos said Mr Rutte spent almost two hours on Monday afternoon at the queen’s palace in The Hague where he made the cabinet’s resignation official.
After he left, a government statement said that the queen had asked “all ministers and deputy ministers to continue to do everything that is necessary” in the Netherlands’ interests.
Mr Rutte’s government lasted just 558 days. Only three other Dutch administrations since World War II have been in office for shorter periods, Dutch news agency ANP says.
He will address the Dutch parliament on Tuesday afternoon, which will be followed by a parliamentary debate on the political crisis. A key question facing the political parties is whether to hold general elections before or after the summer recess. Many of the major parties want a vote in late June.
Many are now asking if the Netherlands cannot balance its books without the government collapsing, then which government can; and where it leaves the EU fiscal compact”
The Dutch economy, Europe’s fifth largest, has survived the eurozone crisis relatively well with a national debt of around 65% of economic output but its projected budget deficit falls foul of new EU rules requiring eurozone governments to keep below 3% of GDP.
A recent forecast from the Netherlands’ Central Planning Bureau estimated that the country’s public deficit would rise to 4.7% of GDP.
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