Opposition searches for cracks in coalition as MPs return from holiday

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As the Dutch Parliament returns from its summer break, the biggest surprise for many is that the coalition government appears rock solid a year after taking office.

Even in the Netherlands, where coalitions of two or three parties are the norm, the minority coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Liberals (VVD), supported by a ‘tolerance agreement’ with Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV), seemed destined for a short life.

But one year on the government retains the upper hand, having achieved nearly all its political targets while the opposition appeared ineffective and divided.

On the main international issues, such as the European bailout fund and the presence of Dutch troops in the Kunduz area of Afghanistan, opposition parties backed the government.

The focus has turned to the Labour Party (PvdA) which is expected to form the main challenge under its experienced leader, former Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen.

Yet so far Labour, the Greens, D66 and the Socialists have been uninspiring, offering little beyond a few winning one-liners in the lower chamber and distracted by their own difficulties, such as the fierce criticism attracted by Green MP Mariko Peters.

Peters, the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, was accused of a conflict of interest while working at the Dutch embassy in Kabul in 2005, where she approved a request by her partner for a public subsidy. Although the Foreign Ministry ruled that there was no conflict of interest, her failure to disclose the relationship breached the ambassadorial code of practice.

One area where the opposition is expected to profit is on the European economy, where the PVV has loudly condemned the Greek bailouts. If the European Central Bank continues to ask the northern nations to prop up the ailing south, the ties that bind this unlikely coalition may start to fray.

Source: De Volkskrant: Het tweede jaar Rutte start vandaag kansen voor coalitie en oppositie
Photo by Rik Lomas

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