- The Washington Times - Monday, July 26, 2010

The winner of the Netherlands’ national elections in June is getting another crack at forming a right-wing coalition government, nearly seven weeks after Dutch voters went to the polls.

Mark Rutte of the austerity-minded Liberal Party is seeking to form a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Appeal and the Freedom Party, led by anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders.

The possibility of a right-wing coalition re-emerged over the weekend, when the Christian Democrats dropped their objections to informal talks that would include Mr. Wilders’ Freedom Party.

Negotiations had been stalled for three weeks between Mr. Rutte; the Labor Party, led by former Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen; and two smaller left-wing parties.


The Netherlands’ June 9 election yielded the most fractious outcome in decades, with the victorious Liberal Party winning barely 20 percent of the nationwide vote.

Mr. Rutte’s Liberal Party won 31 out of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, up from 22 seats in 2006. The Labor Party won 30 seats, and the Freedom Party won 24 seats, up from nine seats in 2006.

The ruling Christian Democrats, led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, won 21 seats, down from 41 seats in 2006. Six other parties split the remaining 44 seats.

The Liberal-Christian Democrat-FreedomParty coalition would yield the slimmest possible majority, with 76 out of 150 seats.

The previous government, headed by the Christian Democrats and Labor, collapsed in February after Labor resigned when Mr. Balkenende — at the behest of President Obama and NATO — sought to extend the deployment of Dutch troops in Afghanistan beyond 2010.

Mr. Balkenende previously had promised that the 1,950-strong contingent, whose mission already had been extended two years, would come home before September.

But the campaign, like the British election that was held in May, focused primarily on fiscal issues, with Mr. Rutte pledging to balance the budget within four years.

It remains to be seen whether the Liberals and the Christian Democrats can come to terms with the more economically left-wing Freedom Party on a variety of issues, including the scope of budget cuts as well as the populist party’s demands for anti-Islam measures such as a tax on Muslim headscarves and a ban on the Koran.