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Dutch Christian Democrats back pact with Wilders

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Christian Democrats (CDA) endorsed a government coalition with liberals relying on the support of an outspokenly anti-Islamic party on Tuesday, but analysts said the pact could prove frail.

Dutch Christian Democrat Party leader Maxime Verhagen (R) reacts after a CDA congress meeting in Arnhem October 2, 2010. Dutch Christian Democrats, despite some reservations, voted on Saturday in favour of a pact with the Liberals to form a minority coalition government supported by the anti-Islam Freedom Party. REUTERS/Stringer

The coalition born of three months of wrangling will rely on backing from the Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders, currently on trial for public criticisms of Islam including a comparison with Nazism. Concessions to the PVV include a pledge to ban the Islamic burqa face covering and tighter immigration rules.

The deal was sealed when all 21 CDA MPs voted to back a pact with the Liberal VVD. Two MPs had echoed reservations expressed on Saturday by a CDA congress about the recourse to PVV support.

CDA leader Maxime Verhagen, announcing the agreement, acknowledged potential strains.

“The government will be judged on its acts,” he told reporters. “You cannot guarantee that on any (one) proposal everyone will vote in favor.”

Markets reacted little to the expected deal. Dutch bond spreads over benchmark German Bunds, already some of the tightest in Europe, were largely unchanged.

The Queen will now likely ask Liberal leader Mark Rutte to form a government, with him as Prime Minister and the government could be presented as early as this week.

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“The fact that 21 MPs will critically look at cabinet decisions does not give me the impression of a sound and solid basis for the government,” Christian Union party leader Andre Rouvoet said.


The VVD won most votes in June elections on an austerity platform, welcomed by Dutch voters worried about an anemic economy, a major pension problem and reverberations from the debt crisis in Greece. But efforts to create a majority cabinet stumbled on differences over spending policy.

“The coalition seems to have cleared its last main hurdle. I have never seen a government fail to form at this stage, though one should always allow for the unexpected,” said Kees Aarts, professor of political science at the University of Twente in Enschede.

“They could face a vote of confidence as soon as Parliament convenes.”

Following the June elections, the VVD and CDA held between them 52 seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament. With support from the PVV they can get to a bare-minimum majority of 76 seats, so they can afford no defections. But there may be support from other, small, parties.

A poll conducted by TNS NIPO found growing support for the minority government, with 32 percent of the Dutch public happy to have Liberal VVD leader Mark Rutte as prime minister, up from 25 percent last week, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

Additional reporting by Gilbert Kreijger, Greg Roumeliotis and Marcel Michelson; Editing by Ralph Boulton