Dutch minority government set to form with far-right backing
One of the most conservative Dutch governments ever was in the offing Sunday, with the conservative-liberal election winners of the VVD party agreeing on a minority coalition with the centre-right Christian Democrats and backed on a case-by-case basis by the far-right anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.
After almost two months of failed talks between all the major parties across the political spectrum, on the weekend it appeared that the three parties had coalesced on a formula that would not give the Freedom Party (PVV) a role in government or any cabinet positions, but would see the party back a minority coalition on confidence votes.
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In return for the support of the Geert Wilders on the key demand of the VVD, the other two parties agreed to support additional immigration controls and a law-and-order agenda.
Crucially, the agreement will let Mr Wilders speak his mind as far as Islam and immigration are concerned. Mr Wilders, who is the only member of his political party, wants to see a ban on the construction of mosques, a tax imposed on people who wear the veil and the expulsion of millions of muslims from Europe.
Late Friday (30 July), the three parties put out a joint statement noting that they "differ in opinion on the nature and character of Islam. The dividing line lies in characterising Islam as a religion or an ideology"
However, they had swallowed their differences, with the PVV backing €18 billion in swingeing cuts to public spending in exchange for "tough agreements on immigration, integration, asylum, safety and better care for the elderly". The VVD had wanted to make cuts of €20 billion.
The preliminary agreement by the parties will now be followed this week by formal talks on details of a coalition programme.
However, the centre and left of the house have cried foul over the development, saying that all the previous discussions over possible coalitions had been with the sole aim of cobbling together a majority government.
Ruud Lubbers, tasked by Queen Beatrix to sound out the parties on possible coalition combinations, had not attempted to find agreement on a minority government, they say.
"It's his job to look into forming majority governments," Job Cohen, the Labor leader said, according to public broadcaster NOS radio on Saturday. "Our country really needs a stable majority cabinet in this difficult economic situation."
Femke Halsema, leader of the environmentalist Groenlinks party called the agreement "highly questionable democracy," while Alexander Pechtold, the leader of D66, the ‘social liberal' party, also complained that Mr Lubbers had only been charged with seeking a majority coalition.
Internally, the idea of being supported by the PVV horrifies a number of prominent members of both the VVD and the Christian Democrats.
Three Christian Democrat former ministers have come out publicly against such an arrangement.
And Frans Weisglas, a former VVD parliamentary house speaker told NOS that the Christian Democrats and VVD "have let themselves be swallowed whole by the Freedom Party, which is very regrettable."