The coalition government that has ruled the Netherlands since Feb 27, 2007 is gone. One of the coalition partners, the PvdA (Dutch Labor Party), withdrew from the government over the question whether or not Dutch troops would be recalled from Afghanistan by August this year - as had been previously agreed - or whether one should bow down - once again - to demands made by NATO and the US.
Naturally, Dutch papers all have this as headlines this morning, yet we turn to the BBC
and Voice of America
for some English language information.
The BBC writes that the prime minister had stated there was no common ground between the parties anymore, quoting him as saying:
"Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together. There is no good path to allow this cabinet to go further," he said.
Fore those who know the Dutch situation, these words by Jan Peter Balkenende are true, although they don't explain what constitutes the problem in this case. Fact is, the government had previously agreed that all Dutch troops should return from Afghanistan by August 2010, yet Balkenende's own party, the Christian Democrats (CDA) do not want to honor this commitment to withdraw from the conflict. Rather, they want to extend the mandate for another year, a move that has been made once earlier in order to please the allies.
What exactly brought about the dissolution of parliament last night was that Wouter Bos, the Dutch finance minister and leader of the Labour Party, demanded an immediate commitment from Mr Balkenende that he and his majority party would not have troops remain in the Afghan province of Uruzgan any longer than had been agreed.
The Voice of America confirms this by writing that:
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told reporters in the early hours of Saturday that the second-largest party in his coalition is quitting the government over irreconcilable differences on whether to extend the Netherlands' military mission in Afghanistan.
In the Netherlands, this recent government was known as Balkenende IV, and it is the fourth cabinet led by Balkenende that collapsed before its time was up. According to Dutch law, new elections have to be held within a period of exactly 89 days.