Dutch PM Resigns, Clears Way For Elections

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Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, is tendering his government's resignation to Queen Beatrix Monday, clearing the way for elections. The decision comes after far-right politician Geert Wilders ended Rutte's majority in Parliament by withdrawing his support for planned budget cuts to meet European Union deficit limits. The government crisis has plunged the Netherlands into political uncertainty just as the eurozone sovereign debt crisis is heating up again. NPR's Philip Reeves has the story.

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Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, the list of governments that have been toppled by the eurozone crisis was already getting long. Now one of the zone's star performers has added its name.

NPR's Philip Reeves reports on the collapse of the Dutch government.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: After just 18 months in power, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today went to the head of state, Queen Beatrix, and handed in his government's resignation. He did so after failing to resolve an argument over budget cuts.

Rutte's coalition government relied on the support of the outspoken popularist Geert Wilders. Wilders and his Freedom Party are known around the world for their virulent hostility to Islam. But this particular argument was about another of their bugbears - the European Union.

Rutte's government wanted to shrink its deficit next year to meet the agreed European Union target of 3 percent. Officials drew up an austerity plan. Wilders objected to it. He accused the government of caving in to dictatorial rule from Brussels. He decided to withdraw his party's support, pulling the rug from under the government's feet by wiping out its parliamentary majority. It's not clear when the next election will be. In the meantime, there'll be a caretaker government.

This is a little embarrassing for the Dutch. Their government was quick to wag a disapproving finger at struggling eurozone nations like Greece when they were reluctant to take their austerity medicine. Now it's also spat out the spoon.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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