Jan Peter Balkenende, a professor of Christian social thinking at Amsterdam's Free University, took office in July as prime minister of the Netherlands. He leads a new center-right governing coalition. Dutch voters ousted the nation's left-leaning administration in May.
"Balkenende was to the voter a fresh wind compared to what [were] seen as established, self-sufficient politicians," Wigle Tamboer, pastor of a fast-growing Baptist church at Hoofddorp, told CT.
Ten days before the national elections, an assassin shot and killed anti-immigrant maverick candidate Pim Fortuyn, roiling the Dutch electorate.
When the votes were counted, Balkenende's Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) became the country's leading political party, with 43 of 150 seats in parliament. One Catholic and two Protestant political parties merged in 1980 to form the CDA. The new coalition includes Fortuyn's anti-immigrant List Party, second largest with 26 seats. The CDA has six ministers, including Balkenende, in the new government.
A reputation for morality
Balkenende has a reputation for being morally conservative and a devout Dutch Reformed family man. But he tries to work in what he considers the political realities of the moment. Balkenende spokesman Hans van der Vlies told the Associated Press, "Although a majority of our party opposed the euthanasia and gay-marriage bills, Balkenende sees them as irreversible facts." But Balkenende's personal opposition to the open sale of marijuana and other street drugs may now result in an official crackdown.
Dutch evangelicals are taking a wait-and-see approach to Balkenende's victory. The political coalition that Balkenende must forge in order to govern is not likely to have a "Christian character," says Hans Frinsel, ...1