SENIOR figures from the two-party ruling coalition in the Netherlands held tense talks today after its plans to cut spending on health were voted down in the Senate.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the free-market Liberal Party and Diederik Samsom of the Labour Party failed to patch together a compromise in talks to find a way out of the crisis.
The crisis was brought on when three Labour Party senators voted to oppose healthcare legislation, thus denting confidence in the two-year-old government’s ability to carry out its budget-cutting reforms.
The defeated legislation was part of a package of healthcare cuts aimed at shaving €1 billion (£800 million) off government spending.
Opponents say that it would put too much power in the hands of health insurance companies by reining in patients’ ability to choose their own doctors.
Mr Rutte, whose first coalition government collapsed after just 18 months due to disagreements on unpopular austerity measures, was clearly unhappy at the latest dissent in government ranks.
“It is very important that deals we make in politics are honoured,” he sniffed as he emerged from late-night talks.
“On that issue something clearly went badly wrong.”
The two-party coalition does not have a Senate majority and relies on co-operation from opposition parties to pass laws.
While a group of opposition senators voted for the reform, it was defeated with the help of the three rebel Labour senators.
Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a Labour Party member, said that he was confident the government would be able to broker a solution to the impasse.