Coalition relief after D66 'yes' vote

4th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Coalition parties Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD have reacted with relief following the Democrat D66 vote approving the new government accord on Saturday.

4 April 2005

AMSTERDAM — Coalition parties Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD have reacted with relief following the Democrat D66 vote approving the new government accord on Saturday.

CDA prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, said it was "good that the Cabinet could continue with its much-needed reform agenda".

An estimated 2,700 D66 members attended the congress in The Hague, with two-thirds voting against abandoning the coalition government.

They in turn accepted the new coalition accord that party leader Boris Dittrich reached with the CDA and VVD over the Easter weekend.

The accord — which set out extra education funding, reform of the public broadcast system and democratic reform — came after the D66 lost an important Senate vote earlier this month preventing the introduction of direct mayoral elections.

In the ensuing crisis, the party gained policy concessions from its coalition partners, but had the congress rejected the accord, the collapse of the coalition cabinet would have been inevitable.

VVD leader Jozias van Aartsen said the D66 vote was "a wise decision after a good congress". CDA leader Maxime Verhagen said the coalition would have been strengthened by recent events.

But opposition leaders Wouter Bos (Labour PvdA) and Femke Halsema (green-left GroenLinks) claimed that D66 was not brave enough to face new elections.

Clinging to the coalition government with just six seats in the Parliament, the D66 is faced with a battle for its survival. Pundits had expected it to vote in favour of the accord over the weekend.

And it was the threat of new elections which especially convinced party members to opt for a continued stint in government, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Monday.

D66 Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst focused on this element at the start of the congress, saying it was a matter involving the "future of the Netherlands".

D66 founder Hans van Mierlo — who was highly critical of the accord last week — said he would back the new coalition deal primarily because of the threat of new elections.

If new elections had been called, the Netherlands would effectively have been left without a government for six months. The six months would be required to hold the poll and wage subsequent talks to form a coalition government.

In that time, much of the government's reform agenda, such as changes to social security, the ziekenfonds public health insurance scheme and the WAO worker disability pension would be placed on ice.

After several years of wholesale budget cuts, the country is also waiting for the fragile economic recovery to gather strength. Growth of 1 percent this year is forecast to hit 2.25 percent in 2006.

An overwhelming feeling at the congress was a wish from the D66 members not to frustrate the government's reform agenda. The PvdA also stands to win heavily if new elections are called.

Despite the restricted agreements on democratic reform — an integral D66 policy — a majority of members considered the pursuit of a broader, more liberal agenda was more important.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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