D66 split on Afghanistan threatens coalition

12th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

12 January 2006, AMSTERDAM — The executive of junior coalition party D66 believes parliament should hold a substantive debate immediately on the pros and cons of sending 1,200 troops to southern Afghanistan.

12 January 2006

AMSTERDAM — The executive of junior coalition party D66 believes parliament should hold a substantive debate immediately on the pros and cons of sending 1,200 troops to southern Afghanistan.

*sidebar1*Only after that happens should the implications for the three-party coalition government in The Hague be considered, D66 party chairman Frank Dales said in a radio interview on Thursday.

The party's deputy prime minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst said roughly the same thing on Wednesday evening.

Brinkhorst, who is also Minister of Economic Affairs, expressed irritation at the warning from D66 parliamentarian Bert Bakker that the coalition government will collapse if the cabinet goes ahead with the military mission.

Bakker told magazine Elsevier it was "unthinkable" a mission involving so many risks could garner even slight majority support in the 150-seat parliament.

But, he said, the deployment would not be acceptable to D66's six deputies even if a broad majority, including main opposition party Labour (PvdA), gave its backing.

"Because this support would be based on power politics and be not given on a considered basis. In that case, we would have a cabinet problem because it seems to me to be unthinkable D66 would want to stay in such a cabinet," Bakker said.

The Netherlands is under significant pressure from the US and Nato to provide the troops. There are already 600 Dutch soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Ministers belonging to Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrat Party (CDA) and the Liberals (VVD) are in favour of the mission.

D66's cabinet ministers, Brinkhorst and Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold, hoped for a compromise.

The government announced an "intention" in December to send the troops rather than a firm decision. The D66 leadership hoped the ball would then be in parliament's court. But MPs of all parties refused to debate the issue until the cabinet takes a decision first.

The cabinet is now faced with a make-or-break meeting on Friday.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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