Cabinet's fate rests with D66 members

29th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

29 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Democrat D66 party members will decide the Dutch Cabinet's fate at a congress next Saturday when they vote on a new coalition accord designed to ward off a threatened government collapse.

29 March 2005

AMSTERDAM — Democrat D66 party members will decide the Dutch Cabinet's fate at a congress next Saturday when they vote on a new coalition accord designed to ward off a threatened government collapse.

D66 leader Boris Dittrich reached the vital accord with the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD in The Hague last Saturday. So far party supporters have reacted positively. Seven regional chairpersons have backed Dittrich's performance.

Former D66 deputy prime minister in the 1980s Jan Terlouw said the accord should be supported. He said the party leader should not be deserted and that a cabinet crisis would not be in the nation's best interest.

Former minorities minister Roger van Boxtel said Dittrich had brokered a good agreement in terms of education and the knowledge economy. Despite disappointing concessions over democratic reform, he said the party must be content with what it has obtained: "It is too late to turn back".

But the Queen's Commissioner in Utrecht, Boele Staal, remained negative. "We are letting ourselves be bought out, just because the CDA and VVD don't want elections," he told newspaper De Volkskrant. Elections are not due until 2007.

The revision of the coalition accord was prompted after D66 plans to introduce direct mayoral elections were scuttled in the Senate last week. The party then demanded alternative policy concessions from its CDA and VVD partners.

The parties reached agreement on Saturday, conceding D66 demands for a permanent boost to education funding amounting to EUR 250 million and a one-off EUR 500 million injection to fund knowledge and innovation.

An agreement was also reached over reform of the public broadcast system, reducing the power of individual networks. Public broadcasters must also focus more on news, opinion, art and culture.

In democratic reform,  D66 was given the go-ahead to develop an adaptation to the electoral system in which preference votes will gain greater weight. This is designed to stimulate candidate MPs to actively campaign for themselves.

Presently, Dutch political parties draw up a list of candidates and the public votes for the party itself. The number of candidate MPs on a party's list that win a seat in parliament is determined by the number of votes the party as a whole attracts.

The replacement for Thom de Graaf, who resigned as D66 government reform minister last week, will submit a new proposal in parliament for an amendment to the Constitution allowing for the direct election of mayors. Currently mayors are appointed by the monarch.

D66 hopes to have mayors directly elected by 2010, but opposition party PvdA said it would not approve of the plan. The PvdA blocked the same legislation in the Senate last week, preventing the government from obtaining the required two-thirds majority support for a constitutional amendment.

Dittrich also said the D66 is in discussions with three candidates to replace De Graaf as government reform minister. One of the candidates is party chairman and Wageningen Mayor Alexander Pechtold.

D66 Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst admitted on Monday night that it is possible he will take up the deputy prime minister position, also vacated by De Graaf.

The party meeting at the congress centre in The Hague will be held on Saturday 2 April. It could prove to be a difficult meeting if a large number of disgruntled party members attend, but Van Boxtel expects a 'yes vote' for the new coalition accord.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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