THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Netherlands' prime minister has canceled plans to attend a European summit in Brussels in order to focus his full attention on a domestic political spat that is threatening to cause the collapse of his 2-year-old governing coalition.
The crisis was precipitated by the failure of a health care reform law to pass the upper house of parliament, where Mark Rutte's conservative VVD party and left-leaning junior coalition partner Labor lack a majority.
Several Labor senators declined to pass the law, which would restrict patients' choice of doctors to those approved by their insurance companies. The VVD believes the measure is vital to restrain rising health care costs.
The coalition has been an uneasy partnership from the start because of ideological differences, but both parties have slumped in the polls since taking office and wouldn't relish new elections early next year.
Anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders' Freedom Party leads in polls.
Separate from the Cabinet crisis, prosecutors in The Hague announced Thursday they plan to press hate speech charges against Wilders for remarks including a chant at a postelection rally in which he asked his supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.
The announcement marked the second time Wilders has faced charges linked to his anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rhetoric. He was acquitted of similar charges in 2011.
In a written statement, Wilders insisted he said "what millions of people think and believe" and added that authorities "should concentrate on prosecuting jihadis instead of me."