Dutch PM steps down

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Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has announced he is stepping down as leader of the Christian Democrat party. The party has suffered an historic defeat in today's parliamentary election, losing nearly half its seats. 

Mr Balkenende called the results 'very, very disappointing.'


He said he has to take responsibility for the poor showing, and would resign immediately as leader of his party. The party went from 41 seats to 21.


This brings the Balkenende era of Dutch politics, which began when he emerged as surprise winner to lead the Christian Democrats in the fall of 2001 and became prime minister in the spring of 2002, to an end.


At the same time, Mr Balkenende's resignation also opens up the possibilities in what will prove to be a difficult coalition formation. Other parties will find it easier to govern with the Christian Democrats under a new leader not tainted by the failure of the last government.


Mr Balkenende will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new government is sworn in.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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