Caretaker premier to assemble minority Dutch govt

Netherlands’ caretaker Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende began forming a new minority Cabinet today, less than a week after his government collapsed.

Netherlands’ caretaker Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende began forming a new minority Cabinet today, less than a week after his government collapsed.

His new conservative Cabinet “will undertake the tasks for which it has sufficient support, such as the budget” for 2007, Balkenende told reporters in The Hague.

Under the Dutch constitutional system, Queen Beatrix asked Balkenende to form his Cabinet and arrange new elections for November 22.

Veteran politician Ruud Lubbers, who mediated talks with parliamentary leaders, said Balkenende may be able to present the government to parliament as early as Friday, comprised of his Christian Democrat Party and the libertarian VVD Party.

The centrist D-66 Party, which walked out of the coalition last Thursday, has pledged its support for the budget plans, which already were substantially complete.

The right-wing LPF party could also boost Balkenende’s coalition to a majority on specific legislation, but Lubbers said he expected the transition Cabinet would not attempt to introduce ambitious new laws before the elections.

The coalition parties stand to lose power to Labour if elections were held today, according to polls, and they are eager to present a budget in September which cuts taxes amid an economic recovery.

Balkenende is expected to keep most of his previous Cabinet, promoting several deputy ministers to replace D-66’s ministers of economic affairs, culture and commonwealth relations.

The government resigned last week after D-66 said it could no longer work with hard-line Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk.

It was the second Balkenende government to collapse.

D-66 was critical of many of Verdonk’s policies, including mandatory citizenship classes and imprisoning asylum-seekers.

But the alliance broke down over Verdonk’s threat to strip one of the country’s most prominent and successful immigrants, Somali-born lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, of her passport.

Verdonk was forced to reverse her position, and D-66 said she had lost all credibility.

Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islam, resigned her parliament seat and is taking a position with a conservative think-tank in the United States.

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