Dutch PM says threat to break PVV party made in fit of anger

Mon, May 14, 2012, 01:00

CARETAKER PRIME minister in the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, admitted at the weekend that in a fit of anger he had pledged to “destroy” the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) when he heard a fortnight ago that its leader, Geert Wilders, was planning to pull out of austerity talks and spark a general election.

When the question was put to him unexpectedly on a Saturday night TV current affairs programme, the normally mild-mannered Mr Rutte confirmed that “in a moment of weakness” he had made the comment – vowing to “break that party apart, right down to the last seat”.

Although Mr Rutte said he had “spoken out of anger”, he did not say he regretted the comment – and he also confirmed that he had not spoken to Mr Wilders since the collapse of the talks, aimed at bringing the Netherlands’s budget deficit within the euro zone limit of 3 per cent of GDP.

However, with a general election scheduled for September 12th, the Liberal Party (VVD) leader said he would not rule out forming another coalition government with the support of the PVV – though he believed such a prospect was “unlikely”.

“I would not rule out working with the PVV again, but then neither would I rule out working with the Socialists, no matter how ideologically unlikely that is,” he said.

Mr Rutte also promised that he would not make his relationship with Mr Wilders an election issue, thought he went on to do just that, declaring: “The fact is that Wilders walked away from his responsibilities during the budget talks – and that means a vote for the PVV is a lost vote.”

In a tweeted response yesterday, Mr Wilders claimed Mr Rutte’s comments were “a sign of panic”. Describing the prime minister as “arrogant”, he hit back: “He will never manage to destroy the PVV – but that is exactly what he is doing to the Netherlands.”

In a rare intervention yesterday, former Liberal MP and anti-Islam campaigner Aayan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in the US, agreed with Mr Rutte that Mr Wilders was starting to look less relevant.

“He [Mr Wilders] has a good sense for what people find important. But if you are unable to form a coalition, unable to work with other parties and make compromises, your arguments will never be translated into policy,” she said.

Meanwhile caretaker finance minister Jan Kees de Jager gave an assurance last night that talks between the five parties backing the 2013 austerity budget were continuing “smoothly”.

His comments came following a new warning from EU monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, that there would be no relaxation of the budget deficit rules for the Netherlands.

“Rumours about a relaxation [of the rules] are unfounded”, he said.