PM optimistic about accord with D66
25 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende emerged optimistically from talks aimed at averting a Cabinet collapse on Thursday night despite reports that the coalition party Democrat D66 had laid down tough policy concession demands.
25 March 2005
AMSTERDAM — Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende emerged optimistically from talks aimed at averting a Cabinet collapse on Thursday night despite reports that the coalition party Democrat D66 had laid down tough policy concession demands.
Balkenende said the meeting among cabinet ministers and party leaders was "a very good talk". He also said the three government parties — the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and the smaller D66 — had shown they wanted to maintain the coalition.
The meeting was held to avert a crisis following the resignation of Government Reform Minister Thom de Graaf on Wednesday. The D66 minister's departure came after important legislation paving the way for direct mayoral elections was blocked in the Senate.
Mayoral elections were an important facet of the D66's democratic reform package. The defeat of the legislation — partly blamed on a lack of leeway granted the D66 by the CDA and VVD — then prompted the party to demand new policy concessions from its coalition partners as compensation.
And despite initial indications that the party would cast aside its democratic reform agenda, D66 leader Boris Dittrich has reportedly placed the reform of the national electorate system back on the negotiating table.
The renewed push for electoral reform came despite Dittrich's confession that the Lower House of Parliament would not back the reform package. The restricted chance of an electoral reform accord also contributed to De Graaf's resignation.
The introduction of referendums might also be up for discussion, and Dittrich also appears to have floated again the idea of an elected mayor, asserting that there are variants that will not require a constitutional amendment. Opposition party PvdA had blocked the necessary amendment in the Senate on Tuesday.
Dittrich's decision to place democratic reform back on the agenda appears to have resulted from pressure brought to bear by D66 stalwarts. Prominent members Hans van Mierlo, Gerrit Jan Wolffensperger and D66 chairman Alexander Pechtold are demanding that the D66 keep pushing for democratic reform.
But it remains uncertain if the coalition parties will agree on amending the electoral system. De Graaf's proposal to allow voters to elect a national and regional politician was previously rejected by the VVD.
But the D66 — whose members are urging for a party congress to decide the fate of the coalition accord — is also demanding greater investment in education and childcare. The party also wants CDA and VVD support for its proposed reform of the public broadcast system, giving the networks reduced influence.
The parliamentary leaders of the three parties, Maxime Verhagen (CDA), Jozias van Aartsen (VVD) and Dittrich (D66) first met on Thursday to initiate the talks. Later in the evening they met with Balkenende, VVD Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm and D66 Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst.
There had been widespread concern early on Thursday that the nation could soon be heading back to the polls due to the imminent collapse of the Cabinet. But indications emerged later in the day that the government would survive.
Balkenende has since estimated that the talks could take several days, while Dittrich has said that it will take a week before an accord is reached.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news