- The Washington Times - Friday, July 30, 2010

The Netherlands appears on track to have its first minority government since World War II, Dutch party leaders announced Friday. 

The arrangement would see Mark Rutte’s victorious Liberal Party forge a coalition with Maxime Verhagen’s Christian Democratic Appeal, backed by the outside support of Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party. The news comes after a week of informal talks among the men that explored the possibility of a formal majority coalition comprising their three right-wing parties.

Dutch voters went to the polls June 9 and delivered the most fractious outcome in decades. 

The Liberals 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, then led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende — who resigned as party leader after the vote — won 21 seats, down from 41 seats in 2006. Six other parties split the remaining 44 seats. 

After the Christian Democrats initially ruled out any cooperation with the Freedom Party — which favors a ban on the Quran, a headscarf tax, and other anti-Islam measures — Mr. Rutte sought to team up with Labor, led by former Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen, and two smaller left-wing parties. But those talks collapsed after more than two weeks over wide disagreements on budget cuts. The austerity-minded Mr. Rutte had pledged during the campaign to balance the Dutch budget within four years. 

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 renege on his promise of withdrawing the country’s 1,950-strong contingent from Afghanistan before September. The last troops are now slated to leave Sunday.