Queen appoints new minister in run-up to D-Day

31st March 2005, Comments 0 comments

31 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Queen Beatrix has appointed Alexander Pechtold as the new Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations.

31 March 2005

AMSTERDAM — Queen Beatrix has appointed Alexander Pechtold as the new Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations.

The ceremony took place in the Queen's residence at Paleis ten Bosch in The Hague at 10am on Thursday.

Pechtold, 39, is the chairman of the Democrat D66 party. He replaces his party colleague, Thom de Graaf, who resigned last week when his bid to introduce the direct election of mayors was blocked in the Senate.

De Graaf was also one of the two deputy prime ministers and this function is being taken over by D66 Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst.

The defeat of the mayoral election policy was a major blow to the D66, which has dedicated itself to democratic reform since its founding almost 40 years ago. It also became clear that its plans to reform the entire electoral system were doomed.

To repair the damage, the party renegotiated the agreement on which it entered coalition government with the Christian Democrat CDA and the Liberal VVD in 2003.

Under the deal, an amendment introducing direct mayoral elections will be written directly into the Constitution. De Graaf's proposal stalled when the opposition in the Senate voted against scrapping the Constitutional clause which says the monarch must appoint mayors.

The new coalition accord also provides for EUR 1 billion extra funding for education and reform of the public broadcast system.

The Democrats rank and file is to vote on the agreement at a party congress on Saturday. If they vote it down, the coalition would most likely fall. Pechtold and the other ministers would stay in office as a caretaker government until a new administration is been formed after a general election.

Pechtold has conceded that if the government falls he will not be able to return as Mayor of Wageningen, a position he was appointed to in October 2003. Prior to that, he was an alderman on the city council in Utrecht for seven years.

Meanwhile, senior D66 members are attending a series of meetings held by local branches in the run-up to Saturday's congress.

D66 MP Lousewies van der Laan told one meeting on Wednesday night that if the new accord is rejected, it cannot be renegotiated and the coalition will collapse.

Commentators have predicted that party members will back the accord because the party only has six MPs and is not doing very well in opinion polls. The appointment of Pechtold on Thursday is also expected to pursuade many members to vote for the deal.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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