According to the Telegraaf, there was a marathon meeting in an attempt to hold things together. What follows below is a translation from our correspondent, HN.
[First, however, get the flavor of the Dutch from the first sentence of the story: Het kabinet van CDA, PvdA en ChristenUnie is gevallen. Doesn’t that gevallen seem much more final?]
From The Hague:
The Dutch coalition cabinet - the Christian Democrats, the PvdA (the Labor Party) and ChristenUnie (ChristianUnion) - has fallen.
The PvdA ministers withdrew support of the cabinet. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced this in the night Friday on Saturday. On Monday the cabinet would have been in office for exactly three years.
The ministers of the three parties had been negotiating since Friday morning, beginning about 11:30 a.m., about the future role of The Netherlands in Afghanistan. CDA wanted to continue the mission in Uruzgan. PvdA did not want to continue the mission under any circumstances. The PVDA insisted that the cabinet convey this to NATO.
According to CDA and CU this would conflict with the cabinet decision to consider all options for a longer stay in Afghanistan and only then come to a final decision. In a final attempt, Balkenende asked Friday night at 3:00 a.m.[Saturday morning?- D] that PvdA ministers agree on that, in order to save the coalition. Following agreement on this, a cabinet decision would be made before the first of March.
This was not negotiable for the PvdA. The PvdA ministers offered their resignation.
The BBC fleshes out the story with additional information on the troops in Afghanistan:
The launch in 2001 of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) for Afghanistan was the organisation’s first and largest ground operation outside Europe.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said six months ago when he began his job that his priority was the war in Afghanistan.
As of June 2009, Isaf had more than 61,000 personnel from 42 different countries including the US, Canada, European countries, Australia, Jordan and New Zealand.
So what happens now?
Here is our correspondent’s succinct explanation of what must, by law, occur next:
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"Counting from Monday, elections must be held within 83 days. Which means municipal elections on 3 March, and somewhere between mid April to early May there will be national elections.
Which means that the municipal elections will be seen as what is going to happen. If you are left wing, it’s like going with a friend to the dentist and watch a root canal treatment without painkiller. Knowing your root canal will be pulled within a few weeks later on.
Wilders can, to my knowledge, participate in both elections. As long as he is not convicted he is a free man.I expect that this court case now will fade out. The court will no doubt find some kind of legal loophole to just postpone the case indefinitely without coming to a conclusion."
It’s astounding to an American on-looker that such a Damocles’ sword would be permitted to hang over anyone’s head. However, our correspondent seems sure that Mr. Wilders’ lawyer will make certain that it all comes to a satisfactory close.
I didn’t ask what he thought Mr. Wilders’ chances were of becoming the next Prime Minister.
But you, gentle reader, are encouraged to render your opinion on any and all of these events.
Personally, I’d like to be a fly on the wall in Mr. Wilders’ parlor right now. A fly who is fluent in Dutch, of course.