First Stage of Dutch Coalition Talks Will Take Longer Than First Expected

  • Mark Rutte’s Liberal Party won March 15 election with 33 seats
  • ‘Scout’ meeting Greens, Liberal, D66 and Christian Democrats

The first stage of talks on forming a Dutch coalition government after last week’s elections will take longer than initially expected as the politician leading them, Edith Schippers, needs more time to investigate a possible tie-up between the Liberals, D66, the Christian Democrats and the Greens.

Schippers, appointed by parliament as the so-called scout, will hold a more “in-depth exploratory” consultation on Thursday with Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Christian Democrat leader Sybrand Buma, D66 leader Alexander Pechtold and Jesse Klaver of the Greens, according to a statement from her office. She had separate meetings with each of them on Tuesday after talks with the leaders of all the 13 parties that won seats in the March 15 elections a day earlier.

Schippers, who is also the caretaker health minister for the Liberal party, initially planned to present a report to parliament on Wednesday. She said on Tuesday she needs more time and now plans to deliver the document on March 28. A discussion in the new lower chamber in The Hague on the outcome of the elections will probably be postponed until March 29. The new lawmakers will still be installed on Thursday.

As informal talks got under way, Rutte said that the Christian Democrats and D66 have to form part of the new administration, while Pechtold said the Greens should also be on board. Klaver, though, said Tuesday that the Greens still have “mega-big” differences with the Liberals, according to the ANP newswire, though he added there had been no discussion of policy yet.

Wilders Meeting

On Wednesday, Schippers had a meeting with Geert Wilders, whose anti-European Union, anti-Islam Freedom Party came second in the election, taking 20 seats in the 150-seat lower house. Dutch broadcaster NOS said the meeting was very short and cited Wilders as saying only that it had been “interesting.” The chances that Wilders will be part of a new government are close to zero as all the established parties refuse to be in any coalition with him.

At least four parties will be needed to form a government with a parliamentary majority. The Liberals, Christian Democrats and the centrist D66 have 71 lawmakers between them; adding the Greens would give them 85 seats for a 20-seat cushion over other parties in the lower house. The talks under Schippers are the first part of a coalition-forming process that has lasted an average of 72 days in the Netherlands since World War II.

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