Dutch coalition talks collapse
Talks to form government in the Netherlands with support from anti-Islam party end without agreement.
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2010 19:33 GMT
Maxime Verhagen, the leader of the Christian Democrats, wanted to continue talks with the far right PVV party [AFP]

Negotiations to form a right-wing Dutch coalition have collapsed after Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam politician, walked out of the talks amid dissent over his hard-line policies.

The failure after nearly three months of negotiations left the Netherlands in deep political confusion, with no easily apparent way out of the deadlock resulting from elections June 9.

Wilders' walkout followed a rebellion in the Christian Democrats among influential members who said they had deep reservations about working with Wilders' Freedom Party because its hard-line anti-Islam policies conflicted with their party's openness toward all religions.

Wilders faces a hate speech trial in October for his criticism of Islam, which he has branded a "fascist ideology.''

He has advocated a "headscarf tax'' on Muslim women who wear modest attire, and a ban on the Quran.

Mark Rutte, leader of the liberal VVD party who was slated to be the next prime minister, acknowledged the talks had reached an impasse.

'Co-operation not possible'

"I respect his decision, but I don't agree with it,'' said Rutte. "And I regret too ... that this political co-operation is not possible.''

The VVD was negotiating to join with the Christian Democrats in a minority government, with Wilders lending his support without formally joining the coalition or taking seats in the Cabinet.

Wilders said he ended negotiations because he couldn't trust the Christian Democrats.

He said three rebels among the Christian Democrats were unwilling to promise to adhere to a governing pact, making further negotiations pointless.

It was unclear what the next step would be, and no further political talks were immediately scheduled.

Rutte already had explored a broad coalition among left-leaning parties, but the sides were too far apart on economic policy.

Wilders said he "deeply regretted'' the breakdown of talks.

He said his party, which grew to 24 seats from nine in the 150-seat Parliament, "very much wanted to support a stable coalition of the VVD and CDA.''

PVV in opposition

Wilders said he does not expect his party to play a role in the next government.

"What next? I don't know,'' he said. "We unfortunately will have to fulfill the role of opposition party.''

Rutte said he would recommend to Queen Beatrix that he now write a policy blueprint for the next government and seek parties prepared to work with him to form a coalition.

Job Cohen, leader of the Labor Party that came second in the election, said he was prepared to work with Rutte on a policy document.

"I think the VDD and (Labor) can do it together,'' he told national broadcaster NOS.

"We have our differences, but we need a Cabinet.''

Leaders of the main political party will likely visit the queen to tell her what they believe the next step should be.

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