Dutch monarch okays government backed by anti-Islam MP

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Dutch Queen Beatrix cleared the leader of the rightist VVD party to form a minority cabinet backed by anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, the government communication service said Friday.

"Her Majesty the Queen met Mr Rutte at her Palace, Huis ten Bosch, this evening," it said in a statement.

"The Queen asked him ... to form a cabinet as soon as possible" consisting of the VVD and the Christian Democratic CDA.

Under a deal finalised a week ago, the controversial Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) will remain outside of government.

But it will provide the support that the minority VVD-CDA coalition needs to pass decisions in parliament in exchange for a say in policy making.

Wilders, who campaigns for a ban on the burqa and an end to Muslim immigration, went on trial in Amsterdam on Monday on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

The VVD narrowly won the June poll with 31 out of 150 seats in parliament, while Wilders' PVV was the biggest climber: it increased its support from nine to 24 seats.

The CDA, which has been in nearly all governments since World War II, saw its presence dwindle from 41 to 21 seats.

The parliamentary caucus of the CDA, deeply divided over cooperation with Wilders, finally gave it the go-ahead on Tuesday after much internal wrangling.

Wilders, 47, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro (10,500-dollar) fine if convicted for describing Islam as "fascist" and its holy book, the Koran, as "the Islamic Mein Kampf".

On a mission to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands", Wilders announced last week that the government accord would lead to a ban of the burqa and halve immigration.

Earlier Thursday, an official appointed by the Dutch monarch to oversee the formation of a governing coalition approved the minority government deal.

Ivo Opstelten recommended that the Queen task Rutte with forming a VVD-CDA cabinet with PVV backing, saying it could count on "fruitful cooperation" with the lower house of parliament.

In June, negotiators ruled out a leftist coalition involving the PvdA labour party, which came second in the elections with 30 seats.

At the time, party leaders said no agreement could be found on economic policy.

Under the VVD-CDA agreement, government spending will be cut by 18 billion euros per year (24 billion dollars) by 2015.

The Netherlands' contribution to the European Union will be cut by one billion euros, a billion euros shaved off development cooperation and another 1.2 billion off health care costs.

The number of MPs will be reduced from 150 to 100 and the number of senators from 75 to 50.

© 2010 AFP

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