Austerity Tested In The Netherlands

Parliamentary elections in the Netherlands are being seen as a referendum on the government's austerity measures. The two leading parties differ on how to respond to Europe's financial crisis.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a boost for the euro.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Opponents of the European currency have been dealt a big setback in the Netherlands. The center-right Liberal Party, which favors remaining in the eurozone, won the most seats in yesterday's parliamentary elections.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: In the Netherlands, as in Germany, there is widespread frustration about the cost of bailing out heavily indebted countries such as Greece and Spain. And that feeling has intensified because of budget cuts by the Dutch government.

Yesterday's voting was widely seen as a barometer of Dutch support for remaining in the eurozone. Two of the more radical parties, the Socialists and the right-wing Freedom Party had made opposition to the euro a central plank in their campaigns. And a strong showing by either party would have raised questions about the euro's future.

Instead, the center-right VVD Party, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, won 41 of the 150 seats in parliament - the labor party was not far behind. Rutte will now have to do the hard work of joining with some of the other parties to form a coalition government.

The results reaffirm Dutch support for staying in the eurozone, for all the unhappiness over some of the results. Meanwhile, the Freedom Party actually lost seats in parliament. It was once primarily know for being anti-Muslim, but it has recently taken become a forceful opponent of the euro and proponents of the currency zone were afraid it would gain seats. Instead, the opposite happened.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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