Critical MP leaves Geert Wilders' Freedom Party

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Dutch MP Hero Brinkman has announced he is breaking ranks with Geert Wilders' Freedom Party over a lack of internal democracy. As a result, the government's support in parliament has been weakened, but Brinkman said he will not withdraw his support for Prime Minister Mark Rutte's minority coaliton.

"All my attempts to democratise the party have failed. I disagree with the Freedom Party strategy and I disapprove of the way the party writes people off," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Brinkman was critical of the complaints website launched by his party, which invited criticism of Central and East European labour migrants. "Labour migration is legal, and if you have complaints about crime you should go to the police." 

It is not Hero Brinkman's first tussle with Geert Wilders. He earlier tried to set up a youth movement within the Freedom Party, but that was vetoed by the leader. Brinkman also repeatedly criticised the lack of internal party democracy; Geert Wilders personally appoints all candidates who stand in elections on behalf of the Freedom Party. 

Brinkman, a former policeman, was voted in as a Freedom Party MP with 19,000 preferential votes at the 2010 general elections. He will stay on as an independent MP.

Balance of power 
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who relies on the populist Freedom Party for parliamentary support, was recently castigated by the European parliament when he refused to accept responsibility for the anti-East European website, saying it was "the action of an individual party, not of the Dutch government".

The departure of Hero Brinkman from the Freedom Party group means he now singlehandedly holds the balance of power, even though he says he will continue to back the government.

The minority coalition and the Freedom Party together now have 75 seats, exactly half the Lower House's MPs. The 76th MP, giving the coalition thr narrowest of parliamentary majorities, is Hero Brinkman.

(rk/gsh/imm)