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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Analysis: End of a beautiful friendship
Mr Kok leaves parliament after announcement
Sad exit: Kok had achieved huge popularity and progress
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By Hans Laroes
line
Every time I discussed Srebrenica with the prime minister in recent months, the word brought tears to his eyes, one of the Netherlands' leading political TV journalists has revealed.

The international community has no face, Mr Kok told parliament, and cannot bear responsibility. I can, and I will, he said.

He specifically pointed out that he and he alone had decided to step down - the other ministers then had to follow him.


With four weeks to go to the coming elections, there is chaos

It is the end to a successful political career, in which Mr Kok brought together political parties (Social Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives) which had previously been fighting each other. In doing so, he ended a 75-year period of Christian Democrat domination.

The Netherlands prospered during a period of economic growth.

Mr Kok became, as he had sought to be, the ''prime minister of all Dutchmen". His popularity was high in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Even before the Srebrenica report, Mr Kok had decided not to run in the coming elections, on 15 May.

But now, with four weeks to go, there is chaos.

Skulls at Srebrenica
The massacre is said to have brought tears to Mr Kok
Mr Kok has gone, although he will continue to do his job until a new cabinet has been appointed.

The Dutch mood is hard to predict. Populist far-right professor Pim Fortuyn, who detests Mr Kok's record, is currently backed by around 10% of the electorate in opinion polls.

All political parties seem to have lost some of their popularity and the ruling coalition would lose its majority if elections were held today.

Personal responsibility

Perhaps Mr Kok's decision to step down will shake things up again and revive positive attitudes towards the record achieved by him and his cabinet.

But this is how it is now - Mr Kok has gone, and it is the end of a beautiful friendship between the electorate and the prime minister.

However, taking responsibility for a major event in Dutch and international history won't do him any harm, in the end.

Hans Laroes is editor of NOS-TV News in the Netherlands

See also:

10 Apr 02 | Europe
Srebrenica blame 'must be shared'
10 Apr 02 | Europe
Srebrenica report: Excerpts
02 Aug 01 | Europe
Q&A: Srebrenica massacre
10 Apr 02 | Europe
Identifying Srebrenica's victims
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