Dutch PM resigns after budget talks crumble

Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, handed in his resignation to Dutch Queen Beatrix after budget negotiations between his coalition government and a far-right opposition party fell apart over the weekend.

For the past 18 months, Rutte has led a partnership between his VVD party and the Christian Democrats. Their coalition was upheld by the support of the anti-Muslim Freedom Party, led by the controversial Geert Wilders.

Since March 7, there have been regular talks over how to implement an austerity budget that would meet European Union guidelines by cutting16 billion euros in government spending. At the core of the debate was a possible hike to the country’s Value Added Tax (VAT), a wage freeze for civil servants and spending cuts to foreign aid and health care. On Saturday, Wilders walked out on these negotiations.

“The plan is not in the interest of (Freedom Party) voters,” said Wilders, quoted by The Telegraph. “We cannot live up to the demands Brussels is putting on us. Money is being taken from the wallets of pensioners.”

The Netherlands is one of four euro zone countries that still has a triple A credit rating. But that status may now be in jeopardy thanks to the political tumult caused by the budget talks.

Rutte is expected to address the Dutch parliament on Tuesday, when he will provide details about the timeline of a now imminent election.