AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Leaders of the Dutch ruling coalition said on Thursday they would remain in government despite losing provincial elections that will leave them scrambling to command a majority in the Senate.
When the newly formed provincial assemblies elect new senators in May, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal Party and its Labour coalition partner will lose almost a third of their seats in the 75-member upper house.
Even before the result, they did not hold an absolute Senate majority, but were able to pass laws with the support of three “constructive opposition” parties.
Now, Rutte’s government lacks a majority even with their support, meaning it will have to do deals with different parties if it wants to proceed with an ambitious reform of the tax system or pass a budget later this year.
“It’s good that so many of the Dutch want this government to continue ... and that’s what we will do,” said Rutte, whose party remained the single largest in an increasingly fragmented political landscape, though it will lose three of its 16 seats.
Big winners from Wednesday’s nationwide ballot included the Christian Democrat CDA party, and the socially liberal D66 — one of the “constructive opposition” parties — and the hard left Socialist Party.
The far-right Freedom Party of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders lost out, coming equal fourth despite leading in opinion polls earlier in the year.
It will shed one of its 10 Senate seats, although it also became the biggest party in the ethnically diverse industrial city of Rotterdam.
The Labour Party came off worst, deserted by many of its left-wing voters for backing the Liberals’ austerity drive, which is designed to cut the budget deficit. It will lose six of 14 seats.
Labour leader Diederik Samson said he would continue in government: “We took this responsibility for four years, and we will stick to it,” he said.
CDA leader Sybrand Buma hinted that he might be prepared to lend his support to the governing coalition in the upper house.
“The government must adjust its course. It must listen to the Senate majority,” he said, as his party looked set to become the second largest party with 12 seats.
The government and its three “constructive opposition” partners will have just 36 seats in the new Senate, short of the 38 needed.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Janet Lawrence