NEWS

Dutch government faces test in ‘junkie’ Greece debate

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Prime Minister Mark Rutte will face a no confidence motion on Wednesday, brought by his chief opposition rival over a broken campaign pledge not to provide additional emergency funding to Greece.

The parliament was due to debate the new Greek bailout. Although its approval is not formally required, opposition parties have pounced on the moment to air their objections and were expected to request a vote.

Rutte is expected to easily survive the no-confidence vote called by Geert Wilders, whose populist Freedom Party has frequently led Rutte's Liberals in national polls.

The Greek bailout package is expected to receive support from parties representing 88 of the 150 seats in Dutch parliament.

During his successful 2012 election campaign, Rutte had vowed "not one cent more for Greece" – a sentiment still endorsed by most right-leaning voters that Rutte and Wilders compete for.

But Greece's bailout package was negotiated in part by Rutte's finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also heads the Eurogroup.

Rutte conceded in July he will have to renege on the campaign pledge and he now supports providing additional aid to Greece if it meets stringent reform requirements.

At the start of the debate Wilders called Rutte "the Pinocchio of the lowlands" and urged other parties to oppose the bailout package for "the European junkie called Greece" that he said was incapable of reining in spending or keeping its promises.

The debate may also show whether opposition politicians other than Wilders will seek to bring down Rutte's Cabinet, which is facing a huge challenge in trying to draft a budget for 2016 by next month.

Dijsselbloem's Labour Party, the junior coalition partner, lost half its seats in the Senate in May after a disastrous performance in provincial elections. Rutte must now find support from at least two major opposition parties to achieve the majority in the Senate he needs to pass any legislation, including the budget.

One crucial potential Senate ally, the Christian Democrats, opposed the bailout.

"This package is not good for Europe, and it's not good for the Netherlands," said Christian Democrat leader Sybrand Buma, arguing that it is inevitable Greece will eventually need another bailout.

Other opposition lawmakers asked Rutte for guarantees the International Monetary Fund will participate in the bailout.

Although euro zone governments including Germany and the Netherlands have said IMF oversight is indispensable, the IMF has questioned whether Greece's debt is sustainable and will only decide on its involvement after its board meets in October.

[Reuters]