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Latest update : 2010-10-08

Dutch Queen Beatrix has asked the leader of the pro-business VVD party, Mark Rutte, to form a minority cabinet. The anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders (photo) will not be in the government but will provide key support to the ruling coalition.

AFP - Dutch Queen Beatrix cleared the leader of the rightist, pro-business VVD party, Mark Rutte, to form a minority cabinet backed by anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, the prime Minister-elect said Friday.

"The Queen asked me to take charge of forming a cabinet" of the VVD and the Christian Democratic CDA, Rutte told journalists after meeting the monarch at her palace in The Hague.

"I gladly agreed."

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

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

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.

Rutte, the first premier of a Dutch party that labels itself liberal since 1918, said he intended presenting a cabinet comprising six ministers and four deputies each for the VVD and CDA by next Thursday.

"Discussions will start tomorrow," he said, adding that CDA leader Maxime Verhagen, currently foreign minister, would be his deputy Prime Minister.

The government communication service added in a statement that Queen Beatrix had asked Rutte "to form a cabinet as soon as possible".

Rutte's 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 to come third.

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

The last government, a CDA-led coalition under premier Jan Peter Balkenende, fell in February in a dispute over continued military support to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The parliamentary caucus of the CDA, deeply divided over cooperation with Wilders, finally gave the government deal 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", he 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 Queen 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.

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

Date created : 2010-10-08


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