23rd Mar 2018

Dutch coalition talks collapse again

  • Dutch MP Segers, of the mildly eurosceptic Christian Union party, before his three-hour talk with his counterpart of the pro-EU D66 party (Photo: Roel Wijnants)

A second attempt at a four-party coalition in the Netherlands has failed, just a week after the first attempt had also unravelled.

The leaders of the pro-EU centrist D66 party and the mildly eurosceptic Christian Union announced on Tuesday (23 May) that their differences of opinion were too big for coalition talks to succeed.

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  • D66 leader Alexander Pechtold, whose party holds radically different views to Christian Union on medical-ethical issues (Photo: Roel Wijnants)

The centre-right Liberals of outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte and the centre-right Christian Democrats still wanted to explore the possibility of a coalition with D66 and the Christian Union.

But coalition negotiator Edith Schippers, a Liberal, said that “political will” was lacking within D66 and the Christian Union for coalition talks to succeed.

The two party leaders sat down with Schippers for over three hours on Tuesday.

“Then we looked each other deep in the eyes, and said: 'No, this is pointless',” said Christian Union leader Gert-Jan Segers.

The impasse followed a previous attempt at a majority coalition, with the Liberals, Christian Democrats, D66, and GreenLeft.

Talks for that combination had taken two months since the elections, but collapsed last week. In particular, the differences between left-wing GreenLeft and the centre-right parties on migration, climate action, and income inequality, were said to be too big.

The elections in March resulted in a highly fragmented Dutch parliament, in which at least four parties are needed for a majority government.

But any combination would include at least two political parties with great differences of views.

D66 and the Christian Union, for example, are on opposing sides when it comes to medical-ethical issues, such as abortion and euthanasia.

The second-largest party in parliament, Geert Wilders' far-right anti-EU PVV party, is open to talks, but no other parties see any use in that, because of the great differences amongst them.

The far-left Socialist Party does not want to take part in a coalition with the Liberals, while Labour wants to lick its wounds in opposition, following its most crushing electoral defeat in history.

It is unclear which combination of parties will be explored next, and how definitively the options were dismissed.

Schippers will report back to the Dutch parliament, which will discuss the next steps next week.

An option not yet explored is a minority government.

And, while it has now been 70 days since the election, that is still nowhere near the record 222 days that were needed to form a Dutch government after elections in 1977.

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