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Dutch close to finally forming a government. But at what cost?

Surfing the web during a quiet moment in a meeting in southern Africa on Wednesday, I was able to inform the Dutch trade unionist sitting next to me that, after 111 days of political stalemate, his country finally looked like it might have a government.

"Oh no, that can't be good news," came the reply.

The news from The Hague was widely expected: two center-right parties have agreed to form a minority government dependent for survival on parliamentary support from Party of Freedom of Geert Wilders, a man previously regarded as a pariah by many mainstream politicians because of his views on Islam (he likens the religion to Nazism, and wants to ban the Quran).

The deal reached by leaders of the three parties means that Mark Rutte, leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy will soon be appointed prime minister, the first from his party or over 90 years.

There is one last obstacle to the deal: a vote over the weekend by rank-and-file members of the conservative Christian Democratic Appeal party, many of whose members have expressed deep reservations about cutting a deal with Wilders. If they say 'nee,' the country will be plunged back into political uncertainty.

The parties were giving little away about any concessions they had to make in return for Wilders' support, but they are expected to place restrictions on immigration and cut spending on integration programs for those already in the country.

Wilders announced that although his party won't be in the government, it will wield "huge influence" under the government deal. He will have a distraction however, since he faces the resumption of a trial on charges of "inciting hatred and discrimination" next week.

Like the Dutch union official working in Africa, many moderate Dutch people are deeply worried about the impact a government reliant on Wilders will have on the country's relations with Islamic nations and on community relations within the country.

Labour Party leader Job Cohen who was left out when election winner Rutte decided to strike a deal with the radical right rather than the center left. Cohen expressed dismay at the agreement. He called it "the worst conceivable outcome" from the post-election negotiations.

http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/benelux/100930/dutch-close-finally-forming-government-at-what-cost