Dutch PM faces no-confidence vote

2015-08-19 19:27
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands addresses a meeting of the United Nations Security Council regarding the threat of foreign terrorist fighters during the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. (Jason DeCrow, AP)

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands addresses a meeting of the United Nations Security Council regarding the threat of foreign terrorist fighters during the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. (Jason DeCrow, AP)

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The Hague - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday faced a grilling in parliament, and a possible no-confidence vote, for his cabinet's support for debt-ridden Greece's third international bailout.

Lawmakers in the 150-seat Lower House were recalled from summer recess to attend the debate in The Hague, where the opposition laid into the Dutch premier.

Rutte "betrayed his electorate" by breaking his promise that no more money would go to Greece, far-right eurosceptic politician Geert Wilders told lawmakers.

"Every time they believe Europe's 'junkie', Greece... the Greeks get their money, not the Dutch elderly, but the Greeks," Wilders said.

The Dutch cabinet, led by Rutte's liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and its junior Labour (PVdA) partner, has backed the latest emergency bailout of up to €86bn, approved by eurozone finance ministers last Friday.

The cabinet - which includes Eurogroup chair and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, does not need parliament's approval to give the unprecedented loan the thumbs up, to which The Netherlands is expected to contribute almost €5.0bn.

'Difficult for everybody'

Rutte's own VVD party, which has previously said it would not support the bailout if it did not have the International Monetary Fund's backing, on Tuesday grudgingly agreed to back the package after a lengthy meeting behind closed doors.

The IMF, whose chief Christine Lagarde has called the plan "a very important step forward", has said it will wait until October to decide whether to participate.

"The fact remains that it's difficult for everybody," Rutte told the NOS national news broadcaster Tuesday during an informal cabinet meeting.

"In the end however it's not only in Greece's interest, but in Europe's interest for it to be carried through," Rutte said.

The liberal premier has come under fire for breaking a 2012 election promise in which he said no more money would go to Athens after two previous bailouts.

Wilders, who has bitterly opposed financial aid to Greece, was to ask for a vote of no-confidence in Rutte's government.

Observers said that the motion was unlikely to pass, particularly now that Rutte's ruling VVD has given the plan its backing together with its Labour partner and progressive centrist opposition party D66.

Broken promises

But D66 leader Alexander Pechtold fiercely attacked Rutte for his 2012 election promise.

"You cannot look your voters in the eye. You misled them," he told Rutte.

The Dutch premier has already admitted to breaking his promise, but he added that it was made against the backdrop of the Greek economy at the time.

"Nobody could have foreseen in 2012 how the situation could have changed so much," Rutte told lawmakers.

Six other opposition parties including Wilders' Freedom party and the powerful Socialist Party are also against the bailout.

The German parliament voted by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday to back the bailout for Greece, with Chancellor Angela Merkel spared a major rebellion of deputies opposing the aid.

Interrupting their holidays for the second time this summer to cast ballots on a Greek rescue, lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house approved the rescue by 453 votes to 113. Eighteen abstained.

Read more on:    mark rutte  |  greece  |  netherlands  |  germany  |  greece debt crisis

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