AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Talks to form a right-leaning minority Dutch government collapsed Friday when a populist anti-Islam party pulled out of talks, dashing attempts to form an administration seven months after the last one collapsed.
The talks folded when Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, whose party wants to end all non-Western immigration, ban the Quran and expel Muslims from the country, pulled out.
Liberals topped June 9 general elections and had hoped to govern with the Christian Democrats (CDA) and support from the Freedom Party. Together the three parties would have held 76 votes in the 150-seat lower house.
“The Netherlands needs a stable government. Our view is that the CDA (Christian Democrats) can not give enough guarantees to provide that stability,” Wilders told reporters.
Polls suggest his party would top the vote if fresh elections were held.
The talks’s failure also means there is virtually no chance a new government will be formed before the current caretaker government presents the 2011 budget on September 21.
That budget will contain around 3 billion euros in austerity measures to cut a budget deficit expected to top 6 percent of gross domestic product this year.
The Netherland’s has been without a permanent cabinet since the previous government collapsed on February 20 in a dispute over whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Opposition to working with Wilders had grown within the Christian Democrats, who were nearly torn apart earlier this week by a split among its cabinet negotiators.
Wilders demanded three dissident Christian Democrats lawmakers declare their support for any coalition agreement before discussions could continue. “That was an impossible condition,” CDA leader Maxime Verhagen said.
A Maurice de Hond poll last Sunday showed if an election was held now, Wilders’ party would come top with the Liberals a close second.
The Christian Democrats, in power for most of the last 40 years before crashing to a fourth-place finish in the June vote, would lose six of the 21 seats it won in June, its lowest ever ranking in that poll.
Andre Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit, said several coalition options remained open, including the three largest parties — the Liberals, the CDA and Labor PvdA.
“But that is not very likely because Labor will try and force the liberals into forming a more left-orientated (coalition) government,” he said.
Krouwel said he expected coalition talks would drag on for weeks and months.
“I think it is unlikely that you will have new elections now without trying to have a government. Also, the results will not be very much different,” he said. “I cannot think of any party except Wilders’ who wants a new election.”