“We can’t have the luxury of early elections given the crisis we’re in,” Rutte said in a televised interview today. “It would be totally irresponsible to talk about elections right now.”
Hero Brinkman of the Freedom Party, which supports the coalition government in parliament, quit the group today while keeping his lower-house seat. Brinkman, 47, said the Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, isn’t democratic enough and that he rejects its stigmatizing of ethnic minorities. He said he would continue to back the government.
The ruling Liberals and Christian Democrats, together with the Freedom Party, now have only 75 of the 150 seats in the lower chamber following Brinkman’s move. Opposition leaders Diederik Samson from the Labor Party and Emile Roemer of the Socialist Party called on Rutte to hand in his resignation and organize early elections. The next vote is due in May 2015.
While the Freedom Party supports the Cabinet on most topics, Rutte relies on the opposition Labor Party to back his European policy as Wilders opposes further financial aid to euro countries. The move by Brinkman came as the Cabinet is seeking more than 9 billion euros ($12 billion) in budget cuts to meet European rules by 2013.
‘Sad and Unnecessary’
Wilders, whose anti-Islamic stance has been at the center of the party’s appeal to voters, called Brinkman’s decision “sad and unnecessary,” according to Dutch news agency ANP.
The Dutch economy entered its second recession in three years during the second half of 2011 and unemployment has risen for two quarters to 6 percent. The budget deficit next year is forecast at 4.6 percent of gross domestic product, up from a preliminary estimate of 4.5 percent, the government planning agency CPB said today. Unemployment may stay at 6 percent through 2014, the agency said.
“Populism is speaking the language of the people and acting accordingly,” Brinkman told reporters in The Hague. “I will continue to back the government. I will take responsibility for the future of this country.”
Brinkman’s departure may shift more power to the two lower- house members from the Reformed Political Party, known as the SGP in Dutch, which appeals to devout Protestants. The party has already helped the government to gain a majority for its proposals in the upper house of parliament.
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