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Political change

February 24, 2010

The Dutch queen has named a date for new elections and several ministers in a caretaker goverment following a coalition collapse over the weekend. But the composition of the next parliament is less certain.

Dutch landscape with clouds
Are clouds on the horizon for future government coalitions in the Netherlands?Image: dpa/pa

Queen Beatrix has set a June 9 date for new general elections in the Netherlands, according to a government statement issued Tuesday. She also has appointed several new ministers to replace the 12 Labor party members who resigned after their coalition with the Christian Democrats collapsed on Saturday.

The government collapsed after the Labor members refused to support a request to extend the Netherlands' troop presence in Afghanistan.

Members of the Christian Democrats and the Christian Union will form a caretaker government to carry out basic decision-making until a new cabinet can be sworn in.

Caretaker Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he would work with parliament to identify which issues should be classified as "controversial," meaning they wouldn't be taken up until after the elections.

New ministers, new coalitions

Among the queen's first appointments was Jan Kees de Jager as finance minister. De Jager will have the task of preparing an austerity budget, continuing to track down tax cheats, and making a deal with Iceland regarding repayment of funds paid out to Dutch customers who lost money in Icelandic banks.

Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende at a press conference
Jan Peter Balkenende will remain in a limited power role as caretaker prime ministerImage: picture alliance / dpa

The collapse of the coalition has put into question which parties will form the next government. One Labor Party leader, Frans Timmermans, drew criticism on Tuesday after saying that his party would never form a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.

"The Labor party stands for a completely different Holland than the party of Wilders, and for that reason we cannot be in a government with him," a Labor spokeswoman said. "He [Timmermans] dared other parties to think the same thing. Do they want to be in a government that segregates people by race and religion?"

Christian Democrat party chairman Pieter van Geel described Timmermans' comments as foolish, while the leader of the socialist SP, Agnes Kant, said they were "undemocratic."

Others expressed fears that Timmermans' tactics could backfire and push more voters to Wilders' party, which did well in recent opinion polls. His party is already the second largest Dutch party in the European Parliament.

Wilders himself referred to Timmermans' calls as "arrogant" and told Dutch media "the voter will seek punishment for this."

Editor: Darren Mara