Dutch coalition process: CDA agrees to talk to VVD and Wilders

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The Christian Democrats have agreed to join informal talks with the free-market liberal VVD party and Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV) to determine whether it would be possible to form a rightwing coalition.

The talks come at the request of former Christian Democrat prime minister Ruud Lubbers, who is the present informateur, the person in charge of mediating in the negotiations on the formation of a new government. VVD leader Mark Rutte and Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders had already agreed on Friday to such private informal talks, without the presence of Mr Lubbers.

The Christian Democrats will not set any conditions for their participation in the talks, says party leader Maxime Verhagen. However, if the party then decides to go ahead with formal negotiations with the anti-Islam Freedom Party, it would not be prepared to compromise on issues that are central to Christian Democrat values.

Head-rag tax
Mr Verhagen reiterated that his party is committed to freedom of religion, so a proposed tax on Muslim headscarves (described by Geert Wilders as a 'head-rag tax') would be out of the question. Other controversial Freedom Party policies that would be out of bounds as far as the CDA is concerned are the scrapping of foreign development aid and the compulsory registration of citizens according to ethnic background.

To accommodate CDA qualms, a possible variant on a three-party coalition could be a minority cabinet made up of the VVD and Christian Democrats but supported in parliament by the Freedom Party - an option already mooted by Geert Wilders.

The VVD came out on top in last month’s elections – they are now the largest party in parliament by just one seat – while the Freedom Party made the biggest gains. The CDA however, suffered a swingeing loss and up to now has taken a back seat in the coalition talks.

So-called 'purple plus' negotiations between the VVD, Labour Party, Green Left and D66 stranded last week when the VVD leader declared the gulf between his rightwing party and the three leftwing parties to be unbridgeable.

There has been no word yet as to when or where the informal discussions between the VVD and the PVV will be held. Mr Lubbers has said he wants a definite answer as soon as possible, so he can inform Queen Beatrix whether or not formal negotiations about a rightwing cabinet can begin. The queen is responsible for overseeing the process of forming a coalition.

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