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DEMOCRACY
Dutch pro-Europe vote winner Rutte nixes left-bloc coalition
by Staff Writers
The Hague (AFP) Sept 14, 2012


EU newcomers to observe election preparation in Georgia
Sofia (AFP) Sept 14, 2012 - The foreign ministers of five of the European Union's newest members will travel to Georgia next week to monitor preparations ahead of the October 1 general elections, Bulgaria said Friday.

"The foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Romania will take part in this visit, with the aim of supporting the democratic process in this election," the foreign ministry in Sofia said in a statement.

The ministers' visit, which will start on Monday, would also show support for "the reform process leading to Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration," it added.

Last week Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of NATO, which Georgia is seeking to join, warned that the election would be a "litmus test" for the country's democratic credentials.

The governing party of President Mikheil Saakashvili is facing its toughest electoral battle since coming to power after the 2003 Rose Revolution, against a revitalised opposition led by billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The Liberal winners of Dutch elections Friday categorically rejected a left-wing bloc joining government, a move that could critically weaken the pro-Europe poll winners' commitment to austerity.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said while he was willing to form a government with the centre-left Labour party that came second in Wednesday's election, it was out of the question for the Socialists (SP) to also join such a coalition.

"It would be impossible for the (Liberal) VVD to take part in a cabinet with the SP and the (Labour) PvdA," the pro-business Rutte said after meeting mediator Henk Kamp who has been appointed to explore coalition possibilities.

The victory by Rutte's VVD was a boost for centrist pro-Europe parties at the expense of eurosceptic populists such as Geert Wilders' far-right PVV party.

While not as extreme as Wilders, who wants to leave the EU and the eurozone, the Socialists are opposed to transferring further responsibility to Brussels and to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Together VVD and Labour have 79 seats, a majority in the 150-seat parliament but the coalition will likely want more partners who will ultimately have some say in The Hague's attitude towards Brussels.

But Labour leader Diederik Samsom, a former Greenpeace activist who enjoyed a stellar rise in polls on the back of his performance in televised debates, said that the Socialists "must" join any expanded Liberal-Labour coalition.

"I advised to start exploring the possibility of at least the VVD and the Labour Party" forming a coalition, Samsom said after talks with mediator Kamp.

"I said that there could be reasons for more parties to be involved, and if so then I think that in any case the SP must be involved," Samsom said.

However Socialist leader Roemer said after his talks with the mediator that such coalition would be a pointless exercise given that the parties were ideologically "miles apart".

"I told him that I think that a government with PvdA and the VVD is a pointless exercise, because I think that these parties, according to their programmes, are so far apart," Roemer told journalists after meeting Kamp.

"My first choice is for a centre-left government," Roemer said.

Mediator Kamp, the social affairs minister in the current cabinet, is meeting party leaders to test the waters for different coalition possibilities.

The election success of Rutte's VVD and rising star Diederik Samsom's PvdA suggests that the new coalition will be moderate and marks a victory for parties committed to debt-busting austerity.

The two parties' success reflected Dutch voters' desire for an ongoing relationship with the rest of Europe and was seen as keeping the eurozone's fifth largest economy closely allied with economic powerhouse Germany.

Fiscally prudent Rutte's government has been allied to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Samsom's calls for stimulus echo those of France's Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Both parties had lashed out at the EU status quo during campaigning, but the Dutch export-based economy could not afford to call into question membership in the bloc, where it sends 75 percent of its exports.

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Dutch populist Geert Wilders seems for once to have misjudged voters after his resounding defeat in the Netherlands election but his political career is far from over, analysts said Thursday. The firebrand anti-Islam leader with the peroxide-bouffant, for years the best known politician outside the country, changed his target to the EU, hoping to capitalise on widespread unease at paying off ... read more


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