Cabinet collapse loomsafter D66 minister resigns

23rd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

24 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — The future of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition government appears uncertain.

24 March 2005

AMSTERDAM — The future of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition government appears uncertain.

Democrat party D66, the smallest of the three parties in the government, is considering  whether its two remaining ministers should step down.

Former D66 leader Thom de Graaf resigned from the government on Wednesday night after the Senate blocked crucial legislation aimed at implementing the direct election of municipal mayors.

As Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Affairs, De Graaf was responsible for stewarding the proposal through Parliament. 

The desire to have mayors directly elected rather than nominated by the monarch, as is currently the case, was one of the main reasons D66 agreed to enter a coalition with Balkenende's Christian Democrat CDA and the Liberal Party VVD.

Initially, government sources suggested the fallout from the failure to push through the policy would be limited to De Graaf's resignation. However, it became clearer as MPs debated the situation on Wednesday night that D66 was considering whether it had any reason to stay in the coalition.

The party has two remaining ministers, Laurens Jan Brinkhorst at Economic Affairs and Medy van der Laan, a junior minister responsible for media and culture policies.

D66 has indicated their future in the coalition is conditional on the introduction of an electoral system for parliament.

If the two main government parties don't give a clear commitment on this, Balkenende's second government might collapse. The CDA and VVD have been lukewarm at best in regard to D66's reform agenda.

Although the opposition Labour party PvdA bore the brunt of the blame for torpedoing direct mayoral elections in the Senate, CDA and VVD MPs and ministers had also expressed reservations about the way De Graaf wanted to implement the elections. 

The emergency debate was held in the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday night after the Senate blocked crucial government legislation that would have altered the constitution to remove the clause that gave the Dutch monarch the power to appoint mayors.

D66 leader Dittrich came out early on and ruled out the idea his party would abandon the government coalition despite the fact that one its main policy areas had been defeated in the Senate.

Balkenende — who returned earlier than expected from an EU summit in Brussels to patch up the brewing political crisis on Wednesday — was quick to deny that even De Graaf should resign as a government minister.

The Christian Democrat CDA leader said De Graaf had performed "tremendously" in the Senate debate and that any talk about his resignation was out of order. He denied claims the minister had "bungled" the issue.

  • There was some light relief in Parliament on Thursday morning as frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations continued to ensure the coalition's survival. A naked man somehow managed to get by security and shouted comments from the public gallery during a debate. Parliament's chairman Hans Weisglas suspended the proceedings to allow officials to remove the intruder. He did not resist, news agency ANP reported.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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