Dutch PM resigns as party leader, lawmaker

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Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende resigned his party leadership and parliamentary seat Wednesday as his Christian Democrats plummeted in national elections.

Balkenende's CDA party fell 20 seats to 21 out of 150 in parliament to come fourth in exit polls released after the ballot closed at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT), a result he described as "disappointing".

"I have informed the party chairman that I will lay down my party membership with immediate effect," said Balkenende, 54, stressing he was taking "political responsibility" for the state of affairs.

"The voter has spoken, the outcome is clear," Balkenende told a televised party gathering, flanked by his wife Bianca, adding he would also not take up another seat in parliament.

The centre-right Liberal Party and Labour tied at 31 parliament seats each in the exit polls as the extreme anti-immigrant party, PVV, overtook the CDA at third spot with 22 seats.

© 2010 AFP

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