Dutch PM Rutte survives no-confidence vote

·2-min read

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's chances of forming a new government have been dealt a blow, with parliament passing a motion of disapproval questioning his truthfulness.

However MPs narrowly failed to pass Thursday's no-confidence motion which would have forced Rutte to resign.

"Parliament has given me a serious message and I will try my very best to win back confidence", he told reporters after the debate.

It is not clear when and in what form government formation talks will resume.

"This was a very serious matter, for which I have offered my apologies," Rutte said.

The "motion of disapproval" specified Rutte had "not spoken the truth".

The 54-year-old conservative was the clear winner of March 17 parliamentary elections seen as a referendum on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sigrid Kaag, the leader of the second largest parliamentary party, said she was not sure whether she would now be willing to join a new government with Rutte.

"If I were him, I would not continue", she said when asked about his position.

The crisis arose on Thursday after Rutte acknowledged having privately discussed what job should go to a prominent member of parliament who had been critical of his previous Cabinet.

Rutte had previously said he did not do so.

"The only thing I can do here is say from the bottom of my heart, my toes, say what happened, what went well, what went wrong, that I never lied," he told parliament on Thursday.

Rutte, who has been in office for more than 10 years, pointed to his record and said he hoped to continue.

Talks on forming a new government were abruptly put on hold on March 25 when one of the chief negotiators unwittingly revealed a sensitive document to a news photographer as she rushed out of parliament after learning she had tested positive for COVID-19.

The document showed negotiators were discussing a position "elsewhere" for popular MP Pieter Omtzigt, a prominent critic of Rutte's previous Cabinet, though Omtzigt's Christian Democrats were part of the ruling coalition.