Balkenende offers resignation to queen

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Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende tendered his government's resignation to Queen Beatrix on Saturday. The queen accepted the resignations of the 12 ministers and deputy ministers from the Labour Party.

The Labour Party withdrew from the government after the coalition parties failed to agree on a possible extension to the country's military mission to Afghanistan.

In a telephone conversation with the queen, who is currently holidaying in Austria, the prime minister also offered the resignations of the 12 cabinet positions held by his own Christian Democrats (CDA) and the three held by the smaller Christian Union (CU).

The queen will now consult with her advisers on how to proceed and discussions are expected to begin on Monday. It is likely that CDA and CU ministers will take over the posts previously held by Labour ministers until a new government is formed. Fresh elections are expected within three months.

Earlier today, Deputy Prime Minister André Rouvoet told journalists that he expected the CDA and the CU to form a caretaker government until the elections.

Analysts say that Mr Balkenende will probably remain party leader. The CDA's board has re-nominated him for the post and the party congress is expected to confirm the nomination. Labour leader Wouter Bos, who just resigned as deputy prime minister and finance minister, has announced that he wants to continue to lead his party.


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