Poll favourite may put anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders in Cabinet
|Wednesday, June 9,2010 23:01|
Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who wants to tax Muslim headscarves and ban mosque building, could join the next government, the leader of the country’s biggest party said.
Mark Rutte, who is tipped to be the next Prime Minister after Wednesday’s vote, told The Times that he was prepared to share power with the anti-Islamic MP in a new coalition.
Mr Rutte’s right-wing Liberal Party (VVD) is expected to win the largest number of seats in the general election and polls suggest that it could form a majority with the Christian Democrats and Mr Wilders’ Freedom Party.
Mr Wilders, 46, was prohibited from visiting Britain last year by Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, because of his inflammatory views but managed to overturn the ban. His party is in fourth place after briefly topping opinion polls this year.
Mr Rutte dismissed suggestions that his country could suffer an international backlash if he offered a Cabinet post to Mr Wilders. He said that he saw the Freedom Party as “just another party”, and disagreed with its policies on headscarves and mosques. He and Mr Wilders agreed however that the Netherlands should restrict immigration and cut benefits to recent arrivals.
Speaking to The Times during a break in campaigning in The Hague, Mr Rutte, 43, said that he was open to forming a coalition with Mr Wilders, just as he was with the Labour Party led by Job Cohen, the former Mayor of Amsterdam, which is second in the polls. “For me, the Wilders party and the social democratic Labour Party — we do not rule out a coalition with any of the two,” he said. “With both of them, we have many points of difference. But I am not distancing myself from Wilders on the basis of morality, like the Labour Party leader Job Cohen. He is saying Wilders’ party is wrong.
“The problem with Wilders is that he is quite left-wing on the economy . . . while at the same time we agree with some of the measures we could take on immigration in the Netherlands. We disagree on this issue of Islam.”
Asked if he thought that the Netherlands would suffer from problems in the Islamic world if Mr Wilders were part of the government, he said: “I don’t think so. For me it is just another party.”
Latest polls for the 150-seat Parliament put the VVD on 36 seats, Labour on 29, the Christian Democrats on 24, the Freedom Party on 18 — double its current number of MPs — and the Socialist Party on 12.
Dutch commentators believe that Mr Rutte is keeping open the possibility of coalitions involving Mr Wilders and Mr Cohen to try to attract their voters.