Dutch PM candidate: ignore 3 percent budget rule

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By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press

AMSTERDAM (AP) — One of the leading candidates in the upcoming Dutch national elections said he would not feel bound by Europe's rule to keep budget deficits within a certain limit if elected prime minister.

The remarks were made by Emile Roemer, the leader of the Socialist Party, which is neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative party in early polls ahead of September 12 elections.

In an interview with Het Financieele Dagblad, published Thursday, Roemer said it was "idiocy" to fixate on meeting the rule in 2013. The rule requiring governments to keep budget deficits below 3 percent of GDP has often been flouted since the euro was introduced in 1999.

Roemer reportedly said he would pay a fine from Brussels "over my dead body" and noted that the Dutch are one of the largest contributors to the European Union budget in terms of its population.

Roemer's remarks could not immediately be confirmed with his campaign office, but they are in line with the his party's stance throughout European sovereign debt crisis.

The SP has never participated in any Dutch government, but has eclipsed the traditional leading left party, Labor, in recent polls, with a more populist agenda: raising taxes on corporations and wealthy people while maintaining social benefits.

The other party that has adopted an overtly anti-Europe stance, Geert Wilders' far-right anti-Islam party, has been steadily losing ground in the polls. Wilders wants the Netherlands to drop the euro altogether and return to the guilder.

Meanwhile, the Labor Party published its own 10-point election platform Thursday, as Dutch people return from vacation and campaigning gathers steam. Labor advocates that bailed-out bank ABN Amro not be re-privatized as is currently planned, but kept as a state bank.

Rutte's cabinet collapsed in April over its determination to meet the 3 percent deficit limit, and his caretaker government has still vowed to do so — though it is not clear whether an election defeat would leave him able to follow through.

Both Rutte's VVD party and the pro-business but socially liberal D-66 party have said some of Roemer's stances would make it difficult for them to work with him if he were to win, though help from one or the other would almost certainly be needed for the SP to form a coalition.

Under Rutte, the Netherlands was one of Germany's strongest backers in insisting Europe impose penalties when the 3 percent rule is ignored.

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