Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anti-Islam Party to Support Netherlands' First Minority Cabinet Since WWII

By Jurjen van de Pol and Maud van Gaal

The Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Alliance agreed to form a government with the support of the anti-immigrant Freedom Party, creating the Netherlands' first minority Cabinet since World War II.

The "parties accept each other's differing opinions" on the characterization of Islam, the parties said in a joint statement. "However, there's a lot of common ground: making the Netherlands stronger, safer and wealthier is a common goal and starting point."

The three parties said the Freedom Party will support parts of a government agreement to be negotiated between the Liberal Party, or VVD, and the Christian Democratic Alliance, or CDA, while the latter two take into account wishes of the Freedom Party. The "willingness" of the Freedom Party, or PVV, to support budget cuts will be linked to agreements on issues including immigration, integration and public safety, the parties said.

It took six weeks and three rounds of talks to reach the agreement following the June 9 election. The Liberal Party and Christian Democrats, with a combined 52 seats in the lower house of parliament, will rely on the Freedom Party's 24 lawmakers to gain the smallest possible majority in the 150-seat parliament.


"We've concluded we see possibilities for a government with CDA and VVD with support from the PVV," Liberal Party leader Mark Rutte told reporters in The Hague.

The coalition will offer power for the Freedom Party, whose representation more than doubled in the elections, and the Christian Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who lost half their support.

"It may work out. I am very happy this offers chances in the Netherlands to make political cooperation happen on the right side," said Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party that seeks to ban new mosques, curb immigration, cut development aid and reduce European Union influence. "The negotiations are yet to start, but if it does work, that would be great for the Netherlands," he told reporters in The Hague.

Wilders, 47, receives police protection around the clock and faces trial in the Netherlands on charges of inciting hatred in his 2008 film "Fitna," in which he calls on Muslims to rip out "hate-preaching" verses from the Koran.

Austerity measures are the most important issue on political leaders' agenda, with the Netherlands, the fifth- largest economy in the euro region, needing to narrow its budget deficit from a forecast 6.3 percent of gross domestic product this year to 3 percent by 2013 to meet EU rules.

Queen Beatrix last week asked Ruud Lubbers, a three-time prime minister, to broker talks among the parties to form a coalition following the election. Lubbers will speak with leaders of the other political parties on Aug. 2 before reporting back to the queen on the proposed minority Cabinet, the government information service said in an e-mailed statement.

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