Crisis-Hit Dutch Parliament Debates Election Date
Created: 2012-04-25 03:24 EST
Dutch parliament members gathered to set a date for the elections on Tuesday, and to tackle the future of the country's austerity measures.
Embattled Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrived smiling but became serious as he faced a fractured parliament in crisis talks.
Several opposition leaders rejected Rutte's appeal for help in getting his 14 to 16 billion euros savings package through.
Rutte must also try to agree on an election date with other political parties—the fifth in 10 years.
Some are pushing for an election as early as June, while most, including Rutte, say September is more likely.
The country was thrown into political turmoil on Monday when the government tendered its resignation following an abrupt split with Geert Wilders' populist Freedom Party.
Wilder's told journalists he was confident in the face of elections.
[Geert Wilders, Leader of Freedom Party]:
"I am not afraid of the early elections, but I prefer to have them after the summer.”
Democrat Alexander Petchold says it was vital that parliament was able to resolve it's differences over the budget.
[Alexander Petchold, Leader of D66 Party]:
"What I find the most important is that people who are buying or selling their house, or who lost their job, get some security by tonight, and that is possible if we try to fix the budget for 2013 by the end of the week.”
It’s not clear why the Freedom Party, which backed the government for the past 18 months, suddenly withdrew its support.
[Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister]:
"After seven weeks of extensive talks, it eventually seemed impossible to formulate a common answer to the big issues at stake for the Netherlands. Unfortunately, one of the parties at the table retracted its support at the last moment for a package that was nearly agreed upon."
The Netherlands must bring its deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product - the EU's limit - next year, but it’s forecast to be 4.6 percent unless extra cuts are made.