- Category: Election 2012
- Created on Monday, 23 April 2012 13:11
- Written by Amsterdam Herald
Rutte tendered his government’s resignation when he visited Queen Beatrix for their regular Monday meeting. The date of the election is expected to be decided when the Lower House meets on Tuesday.
The end of the Rutte cabinet came in dramatic circumstances on Saturday when Wilders announced he could not support a new deal to save an extra €14.2 billion of public money.
It followed seven weeks of talks behind closed doors between the governing Liberal (VVD) and Christian Democrat (CDA) parties, as well as Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV), which had signed an agreement to support the government in return for key concessions in policy areas such as immigration.
The new deal included an increase in the purchase tax BTW, a rise in personal healthcare premiums, less government funding for students, a reform of mortgage relief payments and a plan to speed up the higher retirement age of 66.
The moves were aimed at bringing the Dutch budget deficit back within the European Union’s target of 3 per cent by next year.
On Friday evening Wilders said he needed to consult his party group after studying a report by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) on the likely effects of the cuts.
Wilders was said to be shocked at the effect on the disposable income of the low-paid and unemployed. He also opposed speeding up the change to the state pension age.
‘I do not accept that the elderly should pay for stupid demands by Brussels. If I had said yes to this, I would have been red-faced with shame when I faced the voters,’ he said after the talks broke up.
However, his decision to withdraw the PVV’s support was roundly condemned by the coalition partners.
Prime Minister Rutte said: ‘The PVV lacked the political will to put things in order when the wind was against them.’
His Christian Democrat deputy, Maxime Verhagen, was harsher in his criticism: ‘Sixteen million Dutch people have been left in the lurch. We need to put the interests of the country first. Wilders walked away from his responsibility.’
The fall of Rutte’s government after 558 days in office makes it one of the shortest serving Dutch administrations since the war.
Economists immediately speculated that the Netherlands now risked losing its AAA credit status, which would leave Germany and Finland as the only EU nations with the top rating.
The immediate economic impact of the crisis saw the interest on 10-year bonds rise to 2.41 per cent, up from 2.3 per cent on Friday, while interest on German bonds fell.
Under Dutch electoral law, elections must be held within 83 days of the Queen proclaiming the government defunct.
In the meantime, Rutte will continue to head a caretaker, or ‘demissionary’, government whose remit will be limited to non-controversial areas.
Several party leaders have called for early elections, including the VVD as well as the main opposition Labour (PvdA) party.
The latest opinion poll by Maurice de Hond suggests the VVD could add to its current total of 31 out of the 150 Parliamentary seats.
Other winners would be the Socialist (SP) and left-liberal D66 parties, while the PvDA, though it stands to lose six of its 30 deputies, has recovered some ground since replacing Job Cohen as leader with Diederik Samsom.
An election is likely to be more testing for the Christian Democrats, who on current polls would shrink from 21 seats to 11.
As for Wilders, his party is on course for 19 deputies, five fewer than at present.
As recently as October polls suggested the PVV could become the second-largest Parliamentary party at the next election.
After Saturday’s debacle, however, it is unlikely any of the main parties will entertain the notion of cutting a deal with Wilders. Whatever the outcome of the election, the wilderness beckons.