Dutch Christian Democrats approve coalition agreement

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The last obstacle to a right-wing minority cabinet has been removed. The 21 Christian Democrat MPs have approved the agreement which will make the next Dutch government a coalition of the Christian Democrat party (CDA) and the conservative VVD supported in parliament by Geert Wilders' Freedom Party.

The parliamentary party approved the deal after just two hours of discussion, in sharp contrast to a similar meeting last week when they failed to reach a decision after 15 hours of talks.

Acting party chairman Henk Bleker said the special CDA congress on Saturday had made the difference. 68 percent of the party members voted in favour of the coalition agreement and 32 percent against.

The meeting of the parliamentary party on Tuesday was delayed for one hour to allow talks between Mr Bleker and dissident MPs Ad Koppejan and Kathleen Ferrier. He described these talks as "robust" but added "no one was intimidated."

The Christian Democrat MPs voted unanimously in favour but with one proviso: elements of the agreement between the coalition and the Freedom party will be "critically examined to ensure they are in line with the CDA's principles."

GreenLeft leader Femke Halsema commented "I have not the faintest idea what that means. It's incomprehensible CDA reasoning." She doubted whether the dissidents would really be allowed to question the agreement since that would be unacceptable to the Freedom Party.

Ad Koppejan and Kathleen Ferrier denied that had abandoned their principles in order to preserve party unity. "Our objections remain in full force".

The next step is that the three party leaders will inform the chief coalition negotiator Ivo Opstelten who will report back to Queen Beatrix. It is expected she will then ask VVD leader Mark Rutte to form a government.