Dutch coalition talks between four parties fail again

Netherlands Informer Herman Tjeenk Willink gesturing as he addresses media representatives, on June 12, 2017.
Netherlands Informer Herman Tjeenk Willink gesturing as he addresses media representatives, on June 12, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Efforts to revive a bid to forge a four-party Dutch coalition government again ran aground late Monday (June 12), almost three months after legislative elections.

"Despite our talks I have to conclude that the outcome is negative," said Herman Tjeenk Willink, who was appointed by the Dutch parliament to moderate the discussions.

His announcement came after a day-long informal meeting between current Prime Minister Mark Rutte and leaders of three other major parties at Rutte's official residence in The Hague.

Party leaders from the centre-right CDA, progressive D66 and ecologist leftwing GroenLinks met with Rutte and Tjeenk Willink in an effort to hammer out a new coalition to lead the lowlands country for the next four years.

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But the talks again hit the buffers over differences between GroenLinks and the three other parties on Dutch immigration policy regarding North African countries, Tjeenk Willink said.

The three other parties - in particular the VVD and the CDA - want a strict policy to curb the influx of immigrants into The Netherlands, while pro-immigration GroenLinks wants the policy to be liberalised.

"I made a final proposal on how to deal with the issue," said Tjeenk Willink, adding it was not accepted by GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver.

"I'm disappointed that the talks did not succeed," Tjeenk Willink said, adding that he needed time to ponder the next step.

Rutte's Liberal VVD emerged as the largest party in the March 15 elections, 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 over similar differences about immigration with GroenLinks.

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.

A breakdown in the talks raises the spectre of a minority government - or, if all else fails, fresh elections.

Most of the major parties have 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 March polls, winning 20 seats.

Coalition governments, and arduous negotiations to form them, are common in The Netherlands. Rutte took 54 days in 2012 to form his coalition, while the record stands at 208 days in 1977.