Queen Beatrix asked Ruud Lubbers, a three-time prime minister, to meet political leaders and report back quickly on how a new Dutch government can be formed, after five weeks of inconclusive coalition talks.
“I will meet all party leaders” to “discuss thoroughly” the possibilities of forming a Cabinet backed by a majority in parliament, Lubbers told reporters in The Hague today.
Queen Beatrix met Lubbers late last night after a second round of talks on a four-party coalition collapsed, with the Liberal and Labor parties split over the extent of budget cuts. Lubbers said he won’t seek to renew talks on that grouping, which also included the D66 and Green Left parties.
Lubbers, 71, who first became Christian Democrat prime minister in 1982, is meeting party leaders today and tomorrow. He said the Netherlands needs a majority government urgently.
“I get the feeling lots of Dutch people don’t really understand what exactly has happened,” Lubbers said. “Has everyone really been involved in careful talks?”
A first round of talks on forming a government made up of the Liberal Party, the Christian Democrats and the anti-immigration Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders yielded no result last month. That option would have had the smallest possible majority, with 76 of the 150 seats in parliament, compared with 81 for the four-party coalition.
Mark Rutte, whose Liberals won the most seats in last month’s general elections, told Lubbers today he would still prefer a coalition with Wilders and the Christian Democrats, the ANP news agency reported. The Christian Democrats, led by outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, were the biggest losers in the June 9 vote.
That’s a change of tack from Rutte’s statements immediately after the collapse of the negotiations with Labor, D66 and Green Left, when the Liberal leader said he would like to explore the possibility of a “center Cabinet” with Labor and the Christian Democrats.
While such a coalition would have a majority in parliament with 82 seats, it might founder on opposition from Labor leader Job Cohen, who rejects Rutte’s call for an 18 billion-euro ($23 billion) cut in the government budget.
Austerity measures are the most important issue on the agenda of the political leaders, with the Netherlands, the fifth-largest economy in the euro region, needing to narrow its deficit from a forecast 6.3 percent of gross domestic product this year to 3 percent by 2013 to meet European Union rules.
It’s taken an average of almost three months to set up a coalition in the Netherlands since World War II.