Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives at the Huis ten Bosch Royal Palace in The Hague on April 23, 2012. ( Image: Reuters )
Rutte said he had offered his minority coalition’s resignation to Queen Beatrix after a split with the populist Freedom Party, which had backed his government for the past 18 months, opening the way for elections possibly as early as June.
Turmoil in what is traditionally one of the euro zone’s most stable and prosperous members jolted financial markets, already worried that the Socialist frontrunner in French elections has pledged to renegotiate the agreement to ensure fiscal stability if he wins the presidency next month.
Rutte said the Queen was considering the resignation offer and had asked the cabinet to keep working for the country’s good. However, government ministers openly speculated that new elections would be needed to break the impasse.
Elections had not been expected until after the summer holidays - long after an April 30 deadline when the Netherlands and most other EU countries must tell Brussels how they will cut their budget deficits.
However, moves were afoot to call an early vote and avoid a potentially long and damaging period of uncertainty.
Rutte may try to cobble together an agreement with opposition parties as a caretaker prime minister to meet Brussels’ budget deadline at the end of this month.