Dutch coalition government colapses over Afghanistan dispute

Dutch PM's coalition government collapsed when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned.

Dutch coalition government colapses over Afghanistan dispute

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition government collapsed on Saturday when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned.

"Later today, I will offer to her majesty the Queen the resignations of the (12) ministers and deputy ministers of the (Labour Party) PvdA," the junior coalition partner, the prime minister told journalists in The Hague.

The fall of the government in the EU member country, just two days short of the coalition's third anniversary, all but guarantees that the 2,000 Dutch troops will be withdrawn at the end of their mandate in August.

The collapse, the fourth for a cabinet led by Balkenende in eight years, throws into doubt the scope and timing of planned budget cuts for next year as the Dutch economy battles to emerge from the global downturn.

"I unfortunately note that there is no longer a fruitful path for the Christian Democrats, Labour Party and Christian Union to go forward," Balkenende, who leads the centre-right Christian Democrats, told reporters.

The collapse occurred after more than 15 hours of talks that lasted until early on Saturday, and acrimonious exchanges throughout the week.

Dutch wiatdrawal

A plan was agreed to when our soldiers went to Afghanistan," said Labor Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos. "Our partners in the government didn't want to stick to that plan, and on the basis of their refusal we have decided to resign from this government."

The Dutch mission in Afghanistan, which started in 2006, is scheduled to end in August with the last of the troops leaving in December. Most are deployed in Uruzgan province, Reuters said.

The Duth mission involves 1,906 troops.

Bos, who said he hoped for new elections before the summer, said there was broad support in society and parliament for his party's stance on Afghanistan.

"No good reason" for an extension of the mission has been forthcoming, he added.

Twenty-one Dutch soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

"No trust"

"Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together. There is no road along which this cabinet to go further," Balkenende said.

Balkenende wanted to extend the Dutch troop deployment in the NATO-led invasion in Afghanistan past an August deadline, but Bos's Labour Party opposed any extension.

NATO had asked the Netherlands, among the top 10 contributing nations to the mission, to investigate the possibility of a longer stay in Afghanistan after Obama's order for extra troops.

Parliamentary elections could be held mid-year at the earliest, but would likely be followed by months of talks between parties to form a government.

New coalition

A new government may prove difficult to establish, with opinion polls suggesting four or five parties may be needed to secure a majority coalition in the 150-seat parliament.

Right-wing legislator Geert Wilders's Freedom Party, which has called for an end to the Afghan mission, could be the big winner at the next election.

Opinion polls tip the Freedom Party, campaigning on mistrust of the government and an anti-immigration ticket, to become the largest or second biggest party in parliament.

Labour could regain some much-needed electoral support by its stance over Afghanistan but that may not be enough to form a left-leaning coalition.

Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Şubat 2010, 12:20
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