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Dutch PM Mark Rutte survives no-confidence vote over leadership

By
Don Johnson
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, on January 15. File Photo by Remko de Waal/EPA-EFE
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, on January 15. File Photo by Remko de Waal/EPA-EFE

April 2 (UPI) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte survived a vote of no confidence on Friday following complaints about his conduct during talks to form a new governing coalition.

Rutte's opposition in Dutch Parliament voted for a no-confidence motion, but it was not enough to force the caretaker prime minister to step down.

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The 54-year-old Rutte remains in a difficult position, however, since the entire Dutch house supported a motion for Rutte's censure for damaging public trust in government.

Rutte said after the vote that Parliament had sent him "a serious message and I will try my very best to win back confidence."

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Rutte was accused of lying during coalition negotiations about suggestions that a highly critical legislator be moved "elsewhere."

The controversy centers around lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt, whose Christian Democratic Appeal party formed part of the previous coalition. Omtzigt had helped expose a child welfare fraud scandal that led to the government resigning in January.

Omtzigt's name appeared in a document from the coalition talks alongside the words "position elsewhere." The document was photographed being carried by one of the chief negotiators.

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Rutte initially denied that he was discussing the possibility of sidelining Omtzigt, but conceded Thursday that he'd misremembered. He said he'd been reminded of the discussion, but insisted he did not lie.

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Rutte, who has been in office for more than a decade, was in talks to form a new coalition after his VVD party won the most seats in parliamentary elections two weeks ago.

Sigrid Kaag, leader of Rutte's coalition partner Democrats 66 party, said it wasn't clear whether the prime minister will continue to be in charge of forming a new government. Kaag drafted the motion of censure.

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