Fresh Dutch polls set for September 12: PM
Elections to choose a new Dutch government will be held on September 12, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday following his coalition's collapse after failed austerity talks.
"We (the cabinet) have finalised the date of the elections. It has been pinned for September 12, 2012. Then it's up to voters," Rutte announced in The Hague at his weekly press conference after a cabinet meeting.
Rutte and his ministers quit Monday after his minority government and its far-right ally failed to agree on a plan to slice the budget to steer the eurozone's fifth-largest economy back below the EU deficit ceiling of three percent from last year's 4.7 percent.
The agreement, according to the coalition government consisting of Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Christian Democrats, would have seen cuts amounting to 14.4 billion euros and brought the deficit down to 2.8 percent next year.
Rutte told the Lower House on Tuesday he expected the elections on the announced date but it had to be set in stone by the outgoing cabinet on Friday.
Although not part of the ruling coalition, Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) had effectively guaranteed the government's majority for the last 18 months by agreeing to support it in parliament.
Nevertheless, lawmakers belonging to Rutte's coalition together with three other minority parties mounted a majority in parliament late Thursday to get a new austerity package passed.
The five parties, representing 77 seats in the 150-seat Lower House, agreed on measures that include a sales tax hike, health care cuts and a pay freeze for civil servants. A draft of this package has to be delivered to Brussels before an April 30 deadline.
© 2012 AFP