The Netherlands has set June 9 as the date for its early election, following this weekend’s collapse of the coalition government over debate regarding the Afghan War. The election will likely be too late to prevent the Dutch pullout from Afghanistan in August.
The government, led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende collapsed on Saturday after a 16 hour debate on extending the Afghan military presence. Labor Party leader Wouter Bos, who ran on a campaign of removing troops from Afghanistan, pulled his party out of the coalition rather than accept a NATO call for continued operations.
Though the Dutch voters generally oppose the war in Afghanistan, early polls suggest that the big winner in the new vote may be controversial opposition figure Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party is poised to win the second largest number of seats, narrowly behind Balkenende’s Christian Democrats.
The Freedom Party is described by some media outlets as “libertarian” for its Euroskeptic stance, though it is fiercely pro-war, nationalist and Wilders’ extreme hostility to Muslims and pledges to shutter mosques and expel foreign imams have led to him being banned from travel to certain countries, including Britain. Wilders is also a staunch supporter of Israel, whom he sees as the “first line of defense” in a global war against Islam.
Though the political establishment in the Netherlands has often viewed Wilders as an outsider, his support for the Afghan War might open up the possibility of a right-wing coalition that puts Dutch troops back into Afghanistan, shortly after the public had finally believed they had gotten them
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