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Dutch Prime Minister Rutte narrowly overcomes no-confidence vote

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Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks with the media following exit polls in the general election in The Hague, Netherlands, March 17, 2021.
Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks with the media following exit polls in the general election in The Hague, Netherlands, March 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  Piroschka van de Wouw/AP
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte narrowly survived a no-confidence motion by the opposition in parliament on Thursday night, which saw him accused of lying during negotiations to form his coalition.

"I remain prime minister. I will work hard to regain confidence," Rutte, whose liberal VVD party won the most seats in last month's parliamentary elections, told the media.

He received support from the two main parties in his former coalition, the centre-left D66 and the centre-right CDA, while all opposition parties voted against him.

It marks one of the most significant political battles in Rutte's long career - he has held office since 2010.

Nicknamed the "Teflon Prime Minister" for his ability to avoid scandal, Rutte and his liberal VVD party won 34 of parliament's 150 seats in elections last month thanks to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

But he was accused of secretly discussing how to appease a highly critical member of another party during negotiations to form a coalition government.

MP Pieter Omtzigt, a Christian Democrat, had raised the alarm in a scandal in which saw thousands of parents were wrongly accused of child benefit fraud.

The affair led to Rutte's resignation, but the move was seen as largely symbolic and Rutte’s government remained in office in a caretaker mode.

"I have not lied," Mr Rutte assured parliament before the no-confidence motion. "I have never deceived a colleague. What would be the reason?"