Dutch anti-Islam MP better off in opposition: analysts

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Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders' exit from talks to form a new coalition government may strengthen rather than weaken his political influence as his popularity grows, analysts say.

Unshackled from responsibility as a partner in government, the firebrand politician will retain the freedom to say whatever he wants in order to expand his voter base.

"The failure of the negotiations has left him politically stronger," University of Twente political science professor Henk van der Kolk told AFP.

"He will be unconstrained in his use of parliament as a platform to woo more voters."

At the same time, whichever parties end up in government will have no choice but to adapt their policies to those of Wilders or risk losing voters attracted by his anti-immigrant stance.

The rightist, pro-business VVD that narrowly won June 9 elections, "will look at what Wilders wants whenever it talks about immigration," said political analyst Andre Krouwel of the Free University of Amsterdam.

"If it departs too much from that, it fears that Wilders will do even better in the next elections."

Wilders, who calls Islam fascist and wants to stop Muslim immigration and the building of new mosques, walked out of four-week-old negotiations on Friday on the formation of a rightist coalition government of the VVD and the Christian Democratic Action (CDA), backed by his Party for Freedom (PVV).

In such a scenario, the PVV would have remained outside of government but would have been expected to provide the majority required to pass decisions through parliament in return for a voice in policy formation.

Wilders said he withdrew after losing trust in the CDA, some of whose members had expressed concerns publicly about cooperation with his party.

While leftist political parties reacted with "relief" to the news, Wilders appears to have emerged stronger among voters of the right.

Peil.nl, an online opinion poll, puts the PVV at 34 seats out of 150 in the Dutch parliament if there were to be elections today -- 10 more than its actual number.

The VVD, which got 31 seats in elections, and the labour PvdA, with 30, would each manage 25 seats, said the poll.

Paul Scheffer, a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam, said Wilders' exclusion from government could hurt the VVD and CDA.

"They fear him (Wilders) as a force of opposition. They wanted to give him some responsibility for what the government was doing so as to weaken him."

The CDA, which analysts say came out of the talks looking weak and divided, could count on only 15 seats today, six fewer than its actual number, according to peil.nl.

"This is a big victory for Wilders -- he made them look ridiculous," said Krouwel.

Dutch Queen Beatrix will consult her advisers and leaders of political parties, including Wilders, on the way forward on Monday and Tuesday.

Negotiations on the formation of a centre-left coalition between the VVD, PvdA and several smaller parties have already failed in July.

According to Scheffer, new elections are unavoidable.

"No stable government can be formed in the circumstances," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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