Jan Peter Balkenende

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Jan Peter Balkenende
Image:Jan Peter Balkenende - Casual.jpg

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Incumbent
Assumed office 
22 July, 2002
Preceded by Wim Kok

Born 7 May, 1956
Biezelinge, Kapelle
Political party Christen Democratisch Appèl
Spouse Bianca Hoogendijk
Religion Protestant (Reformed)

Dr. Jan Peter Balkenende listen  (born on 7 May 1956), has served as Prime Minister of The Netherlands since 22 July 2002. On 30 June 2006 he offered his resignation to Queen Beatrix after his coalition government lost its majority in the Dutch parliament the previous day. He formed a new cabinet, which had been installed on 7 july 2006.

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[edit] Life and career

Jan Peter Balkenende (legally Jan Pieter Balkenende) studied law and history at the Free University of Amsterdam.

He began his career on the staff of the research institute of the political party Christen Democratisch Appèl (CDA) and as a city councillor in Amstelveen. He later became a special professor of Christian-Social Thought at the Free University of Amsterdam.

Balkenende first entered the Tweede Kamer on 19 May 1998 while the CDA was in opposition. He became the CDA's financial spokesman and was also involved with social affairs, justice, and domestic affairs. In this role he advocated a substational reduction of the national debt and sound public finances.

He was elected Chairman of the parliamentary CDA party on 1 October, 2001, in succession to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. On 3 November, 2001, he was appointed lijsttrekker for the CDA in the May 2002 parliamentary elections. These elections became historic when populist Pim Fortuyn was assassinated and the election campaign was halted. The result of the election restored the CDA's former position as the largest political party in the Dutch parliament.

On 4 July 2002 Queen Beatrix asked Balkenende to form a new government, in the wake of the resignation of Prime Minister Wim Kok. This cabinet is known as Balkenende I. This government (including the LPF party of the murdered politician Pim Fortuyn) resigned after just 86 days in office because of infighting in the LPF which destabilised the government. After early elections in 2003 Balkenende formed his second government Balkenende II with the conservative liberal VVD and the progressive liberal D66.

Once again leader of a centre-right coalition, Balkenende's policies centred around reform of the Dutch public services, reducing crime, a tough immigration policy and historically large cuts in public spending. The measures gave rise to large public anger and bad results in opinion polls for his CDA party. While his party remained the largest Dutch delegation in the European Parliament after the European Elections, beating the general expectation of a huge loss in parliamentary seats, the party suffered massive losses during Dutch Municipal Elections of 2006, losing their position as the largest party in many municipalities. Despite his unpopularity among Dutch voters (polls in 2006 showed that only 26-33% of the voters had confidence in him as prime minister), his position as leader of the CDA has been unchallenged. Balkenende's popularity has been rising steadily, surpassing that of his main competitor Wouter Bos in the autumn of 2006. By then 53% preferred Balkenende as Prime Minister with 40% preferring Bos. [1] This switch in public opinion is sometimes explained by the steady recovery of the Dutch economy during the last year of his administration, combined with declining confidence in Bos as a good alternative for the position of prime-minister.

On 1 July, 2004 he took up the rotating presidency of the European Union.

On 30 June, 2006 D66, the smallest coalition party, withdrew its support of the government over the way immigration minister Rita Verdonk had handled the crisis around the naturalisation of Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Balkenende resigned for the second time as Prime Minister, announced early elections and presented his third government a week later. This cabinet, formed of a minority coalition of CDA and VVD, did stay in office until the elections of 22 November 2006. In this election, the CDA remained the biggest party. Therefore, it is likely that Balkenende will remain Prime Minister for another cabinet period.

[edit] Personal background

Balkenende currently resides with his wife, Bianca Hoogendijk, and his daughter Amelie in Capelle aan den IJssel. He rents an apartment in The Hague rather than inhabit the Catshuis formal residency of the Prime Minister. He is a devout Dutch Reformed Protestant.

[edit] Trivia

Balkenende is sometimes referred to as "Harry Potter" by Dutch residents because of his resemblance to the storybook character. On the occasion of April Fool's Day 2003, the Dutch children's news program, Jeugdjournaal, announced that Balkenende was going to play a small role in the next Harry Potter movie as Harry's father. On 4 June 2005, this comparison was made by Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht in the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws (The Latest News). This caused a small diplomatic controversy, and the Belgian ambassador had to apologise to Ben Bot, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. De Gucht stated that "Balkenende is a mix of Harry Potter and a petty rigid bourgeois mentality".

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Wim Kok
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
22 July2002 – present
Incumbent
 
Prime Ministers of the Netherlands Image:Flag of the Netherlands.svg
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Jan Peter Balkenende

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