Netherlands | Government Divided Over Country's Role in Afghanistan
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Government Divided Over Country's Role in Afghanistan
Balkenende's coalition fell apart in Feb. 2010 in a contentious row over the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Troops were scheduled to return home in 2010, but at the urging of the U.S., Balkenende agreed to extend the deployment of a reduced force. His governing partner, the Labor Party, however, had demanded full withdrawal and pulled out of the government in protest.
The economy, rather than Afghanistan and immigration, was the main issue during the campaign season for June's parliamentary elections. The election proved inconclusive; the Liberal Party (VVD) took 31 of 150 seats, one ahead of the center-left Labor Party. The VVD entered into coalition talks with the Christian Democrats and the far-right Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, a controversial figure known for his anti-Islam and anti-immigration fervor. The Freedom Party increased its number of seats from 9 to 24. After months of negotiations, the Liberal and Christian Democrat parties agreed in October to form a minority government with support from the Freedom Party. Mark Rutte, a businessman and the leader of the Liberal Party, became prime minister and the head of the minority government.