By Anthony Deutsch and Gilbert Kreijger
AMSTERDAM, April 21 The Netherlands looked
headed for early elections after the collapse of budget talks on
Saturday, although Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he would try
to reach a deal that would reassure financial markets as
Europe's debt crisis deepens.
"Elections are to be expected now. I will talk to parliament
(on) how to get through this situation," Prime Minister Mark
Rutte, in power since elections in 2010, told reporters.
Rutte's Liberal-Christian Democrat government and its ally,
Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, had been in talks for weeks,
trying to reach a deal to cut about 14 billion to 16 billion
euros from the annual budget.
The cuts are essential if the Netherlands is to bring its
deficit back to below the European Union's target of 3 percent
of gross domestic product and ease concerns which saw it
threatened with a downgrade of its credit rating on Friday.
Wilders, whose party opposes immigration and euro zone
bailouts, called for elections to be held "as soon as possible."
"I had hoped we would work something out, but this package
is unacceptable for our party and the country," Wilders told
journalists. "It's time to go to the Dutch voters."
The Dutch government has been among one of Germany's
strongest supporters in its push to force through a new pact on
fiscal responsibility in the euro zone - one key element of
efforts to see off the wider debt crisis.
The Netherlands is one of four euro countries with a coveted
triple-A rating, but concerns over its finances have remained in
the background as the minority administration struggled to reach
agreement on the budget cutbacks.
The breakdown of the talks follows a warning from ratings
agency Fitch that the country was on the verge of a downgrade in
its credit status due to high debt.
Rutte in the past has drawn support from the left-leaning
Labour party to pass legislation on euro zone issues.