World Bulletin / News Desk
Tough negotiations on forming a Dutch coalition government appeared to hit an impasse Monday, despite the winners of the March elections spending the weekend mulling their options.
Veteran politician Edith Schippers, who is in charge of the negotiations, announced last week that four-way talks had collapsed mainly due to differences over immigration, and spent Monday huddled in meetings seeking to break the stalemate.
The Liberal party (VVD) of Mark Rutte, the outgoing prime minister, emerged as the largest in the March 15 vote, capturing 33 out of the 150 seats in the Dutch lower house of parliament.
But his initial bid to form a four-party coalition collapsed after eight weeks of talks when differences with the ecologist leftwing GroenLinks proved too great for Rutte and two other leading parties -- the right-wing Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the progressive Democracy Party D66.
Both the CDA and D66 have 19 seats each, but in combination with Rutte's VVD they still fall short of the 76 MPs needed for a parliamentary majority.
Schippers emerged from hours of talks to say the "only" possibility she saw now for forging a majority government would be to include the small conservative Christian Union (CU) as the fourth partner.
"There is only one variant on the table that has not been rejected by one or more parties -- and that is VVD, CDA, D66 and Christian Union," she told reporters.
But that sits uneasily with the progressive D66, whose leader Alexander Pechtold is wary of the coalition being pulled too far to the right.
Pechtold was to meet with his party on Tuesday, while the CU leader Gert-Jan Segers would also hold talks with his leading members, the public broadcaster NOS said.
"All sorts of hurdles are being put up", the CDA leader Sybrand Buma, told NOS. "It's time to make choices."
Rutte also voiced frustration. "The VVD is the largest party, but we are not in a position to voice our preference," he told NOS.
Rutte has meanwhile vowed not to work with the anti-Islam, anti-EU Geert Wilders even though his far-right Freedom Party boosted its support to come second in the polls, winning 20 seats in March.
Coalition governments and arduous negotiations are common in The Netherlands. Rutte took 54 days in 2012 to form his coalition, while the record stands at 208 days in 1977.
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