THE HAGUE • After an eye-popping 208 days of talks, the leaders of four Dutch political parties have reached a deal for a new coalition government.
The accord, the result of months of behind-the-scenes wrangling since the March elections, was yesterday to go to the parties' members and to Parliament for final approval, with an official announcement expected today.
About seven months after the polls, the deal will see outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte's business-friendly liberal VVD party hook up with the progressive D66, as well as two Christian parties, the pragmatic CDA and the more conservative Christian Union.
The negotiations equalled the 208-day record, set in 1977, for the longest-running talks to form a government.
But it will give the new coalition only a total of 76 MPs in the 150-seat Lower House of Parliament, just a one-seat majority.
Analysts have warned that it could prove an uneasy and fragile marriage, given the differences between the parties.
But, emerging from the talks yesterday, Mr Rutte told reporters: "I am really happy."
He added: "Exactly on the day that the government formation will surpass the previous record to form a government, there is... an agreement. We are sharing it with our MPs this afternoon."
He is expected to stay on as prime minister at the helm of his third Dutch government.
But the other Cabinet posts are not likely to be unveiled until around Oct 23, the public broadcaster NOS said.
A first attempt shortly after the March elections to form a four-party coalition with the eco-friendly GreenLeft party collapsed amid differences over immigration.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE