HAGUE (Somalilandpress) — DUTCH political leaders may face months of talks to form a coalition government after a cliffhanger result in the general election that has left anti-immigrant leader Geert Wilders the big winner.
The centre-right Liberals were one seat ahead of Labour with 88 per cent of the vote counted while the far-right anti-Islam Party for Freedom scored its best-ever result.
Published partial results showed the Liberals, led by Mark Rutte, with 31 seats and Labour, led by former mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen, on 30 in the 150-seat parliament early yesterday.
Geert Wilders’ anti-immigrant Freedom Party more than doubled its vote to take third place. Mr Wilders, whose campaign demanded an end to immigration from Muslim countries and a ban on new mosques, celebrated taking its number of MPs from nine in the last parliament to 22.
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The far-right leader with his distinctive shock of blond hair called the result ”magnificent”.
Outgoing prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende stepped down as Christian Democrat leader after his party’s support was cut in half. Mr Balkenende reacted by resigning both his party’s leadership and his seat in parliament.
”I have informed the party chairman that I will lay down my party membership with immediate effect,” said Mr Balkenende, 54, stressing he was taking ”political responsibility” for the state of affairs.
It would be the first time parties have tied for first place in a Dutch election in more than 50 years. The leader of the biggest party gets the first shot at forming a government. The projection suggests the eventual winner will need a coalition with three other groups to have a majority in parliament. The only possible three-party coalition would be made up of Labour, Liberals and Christian Democrats.
”We should be happy if we have a coalition cabinet by October or November,” said Andre Krouwel, who teaches political science at VU University in Amsterdam. He said he expects Labour and the Liberals to try to work together ”as the nucleus” of a new government, together with the smaller D66 and Green Left parties.
Since World War II, it has taken an average of almost three months to form a coalition.The longest was 208 days in 1977.
”If Labour and the Liberals are indeed tied, it’s unclear who will take the initiative in forming a government,” said Kees Aarts, a professor of political science at the University of Twente in Enschede. ”The image of the party that starts the talks might seriously suffer if the negotiations lead to nothing.”
Labour and the Liberals would have to overcome differences on their programs to rule together. Mr Cohen has set out plans to cut government spending by €10 billion euros ($14.5 billion). His party aims to narrow the deficit to 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product by 2015, when the Liberals, who want to reduce expenditure by €20 billion, aim to balance the budget.
Mr Cohen also wants to phase out a tax break on mortgage payments for home owners -a move opposed by the Liberals and Christian Democrats.
The election was the first in a eurozone country since the Greek financial crisis erupted and has been closely watched to see how the public reacts to Europe’s wave of austerity.
The maverick Mr Wilders has earned notoriety around the world with his campaign to ban the Koran in a bid to ”stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands”. Mr Wilders, who has called Islam a fascist religion, goes on trial in the Netherlands in October on charges of inciting racial hatred against Muslims. Mr Cohen has called Mr Wilders ”a threat to our constitutional democracy”.
By Jurjen Van De Pol, The Hague
Source: Bloomberg, AFP | Thursday, June 10, 2010