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World News

FACTBOX - Collapse of Dutch government, what opinion polls say

A file photo of Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende as he shakes hands with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (L) during their meeting in Kabul February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Syed Jan Sabawoon/Pool/Files

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch coalition government collapsed on Saturday, two days before its third anniversary, in a dispute over extending the country’s NATO mission in Afghanistan.

Following are five facts about the government and opinion polls on the potential next administration:

* The coalition was led by the right-leaning Christian Democrats (CDA) and included the left-leaning Labour Party (PvdA) and conservative Christian Union. The three parties hold 80 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.

The CDA or predecessor parties have led 19 of the 26 governments since 1946.

* Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has led four governments since July 2002 and is only the third prime minister in the last 28 years.

* Opinion polls show the Christian Democrats would win a new election, though they would require three coalition partners to form a majority government.

* The same polls have found little public support for Balkenende. He is generally expected to be succeeded by Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen as party leader for the next election.

* A Feb. 14 Maurice de Hond poll put the CDA on 27 seats, followed by the anti-immigrant Freedom Party (PVV) on 25 seats and the centre-right Liberal Party VVD on 22 seats. A Feb. 18 Politieke Barometer poll put the CDA on 32 seats, the PVV on 24 and Labour third with 21.

Sources: Reuters reports, Prime Minister’s website, Politieke Barometer, Peil.nl

Reporting by Ben Berkowitz

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