Dutch Christian Democrats limping back to coalition talks
The Dutch Christian Democrat Appeal party CDA has closed ranks after a deep crisis over coalition talks with Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party.
Dutch politics, usually devoid of drama, seemed about to witness a fatal split in the Christian Democrat party, both among MPs and at grassroots level. But opting for a typical compromise solution, deputy coalition negotiator, mild-mannered rational protestant Ab Klink, stepped back and his place at the negotiating table alongside party leader Maxime Verhagen will be taken by MP Ank Bijleveld. The coalition talks will resume on Thursday. Ab Klink and two other dissident Christian Democrat MPs will reserve judgement, taking a back seat until the new government accord is presented.
Freedom of religion After three weeks of tough coalition negotiations, Mr Klink saw insurmountable obstacles to a government coalition supported by Geert Wilders' party. He wrote to his fellow MPs that he wanted the coalition talks to stop, because of Mr Wilders' anti-Islamic views, which he considered divisive and at odds with the fundamental freedom of religion.
Mr Klink, who is the Health Minister in the outgoing government, also foresaw huge problems in the planned coalition, where Christian Democrats and free-market liberal VVD would together form a minority government, while the Freedom Party would only be committed to giving parliamentary support without having any ministers in the government. This would give Mr Wilders' party a stranglehold over the new government without constraining his views on Islam, Islamic immigrants and other social issues. The three-party combination would have had a fragile one-seat majority in the 150-member Lower House.
According to Mr Klink's letter, Geert Wilders told the VVD and CDA negotiators that he would ignore the official policy statement when the new cabinet assumed power, and would tell his own story instead. "Geert Wilders recommended his colleagues of the other parties to look the other way when he was giving his own statement, and predicted that it would make us turn red in the face with embarrassment," the Christian Democrat wrote. "I bet that we would hear the usual full-blown Wilders rhetoric, like 'de-Islamisation has begun today', and so on," Mr Klink speculated in his letter.
Wilders "misrepresented" Responding to developments in the Christian Democrat parliamentary group, Geert Wilders said that Mr Klink had misrepresented him. The right-wing anti-Islam party leader said there are still many questions he wants answered by CDA negotiator Maxime Verhagen before he gives his view on the ructions in the Christian Democrat party and their impact on the coalition talks.
The general elections of 9 June failed to produce a clear majority of any coherent group of parties. Several combinations of parties since tried to form viable coalitions, but all attempts failed. The centre-right grouping of CDA, VVD and Freedom Party is in their fourth week of talks.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide