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Europe

Dutch premier resigns amid tie between two other leading parties

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has resigned after his party finished a disappointing fourth in parliamentary elections. The pro-business VVD party and the Labor party have tied for the lead.

Election posters

No party has emerged a winner in Dutch elections

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende resigned Wednesday from both his parliamentary seat and as leader of his party after his Christian Democrats lost half their seats in general elections.

"I have informed the party chairman that I will lay down my party membership with immediate effect," Balkenende told party members at a televised gathering. "The voter has spoken, the outcome is clear."

He added that he was taking "political responsibility" for the defeat.

Exit polls indicate that the pro-business VVD party (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie) and center-left Labor have finished in a dead heat with 31 of 150 parliamentary seats each.

The far-right Freedom Party, led by anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, had its best showing ever and came in third with 23 seats. Dutch news agency ANP quoted Wilders as calling the outcome "magnificent."

The Christian Democrats came in fourth with a historic low of just 21 seats, down from an earlier 41.

The austerity-minded VVD had been projected to take the election, but Labor's strong showing suggests prolonged coalition talks are yet to come. The two parties occupy opposite spots on the political spectrum.

Balkenende's coalition with the Labor party collapsed in February after the Labor members of the government refused to support a request to extend the Netherlands' troop presence in Afghanistan.

Balkenende had led a caretaker government since then.

Authors: Holly Fox and Stephanie Siek (AFP/AP/Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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