Dutch anti-Islam party averts crisis as retains MP

Dutch anti-Islam party averts crisis as retains MP
# 16 November 2010 04:10 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders disciplined a party member on Monday but stopped short of expelling him from the party over a sex scandal, avoiding a crisis for the minority government it supports, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
The right-leaning minority coalition, formed last month after elections in June produced no clear winner, is seen as fragile and likely to be short-lived.
Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) has agreed to support the Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition in parliament, providing it with the thinnest of majorities needed to pass spending cuts in exchange for a tougher stance on immigration.
Expulsion of Eric Lucassen, a Freedom Party member and former soldier, would have deprived the coalition of its majority but could yet cost Wilders support among his followers, if he is seen as being lax on law and order.
Dutch media reported last week that Lucassen had been disciplined by the military for having an affair with a subordinate, and that separately, his neighbours had reported him to the police for assault and intimidation.
Wilders dismissed Lucassen from the defense and communities portfolios on Monday but said he would stay on as a member of the parliamentary faction.
"Lucassen was not convicted of (making) threats," the Freedom Party said in a statement.
It added that Lucassen had breached military rules regarding sexual relationships with subordinates and that the party had not known this when it appointed him as an MP.
"Lucassen admits he made a great mistake. In 2005, however, he was given an honorable discharge from the military," the Freedom party said in its statement.
Lucassen told Dutch television he was ashamed he had embarrassed Wilders and thanked the party leader for giving him a second chance. He publicly apologized to his former neighbours for his behavior and said he should not have had a relationship with a woman in his battalion.
"A lot of voters expected that Wilders would throw (Lucassen) out of the party" because of his tough stance on law and order, said Amsterdam University political scientist Philip van Praag, adding that this put Wilders in a difficult position.
A Maurice de Hond poll on Sunday showed 78 percent of Freedom Party voters felt Lucassen should be expelled from the party.