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BRUSSELS, Belgium — After four months of negotiations the Netherlands finally got a government this week. But even as the center-right coalition was being sworn in by Queen Beatrix, doubts are rife about how long it will last.
The minority government depends for its survival on the anti-Islamic Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders. Even with Wilders’ support, it has just one seat more than the center-left opposition in the 150-seat parliament.
That means Prime Minister Mark Rutte will be facing defeat if just one government lawmaker feels unable to back an agenda which includes stringent cuts in government spending, stricter rules on immigration and reductions in development aid.
Several leading members of the Christian Democratic Appeal, the junior party in the coalition, have already expressed deep misgivings about the deal with Wilders, meaning that the coalition is looking shaky from the start.
Rutte, 43, is a former manager at Unilever consumer goods conglomerate and is strong on free-market economics. He is the first prime minister from the fiscal-conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (PVV). Wilders, 47, is a former PVV stalwart who split from the party in 2004 to form his Freedom Party dedicated to stemming immigration and rolling back the influence of Islam in Dutch life.
Wilders told Dutch television that he was confident the government would take action to cut “non-Western” immigration by 50 percent and warned the cabinet they would face a problem with the Freedom Party if the target was not reached.
As well as getting a hand on the strings of power, there was more good news for Wilders this week when the public prosecutor called for his acquittal on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination. The prosecutor said that Wilders’ criticism of Islam did not amount to illegal incitement against Muslims.