23rd Mar 2017

Dutch right-wing coalition talks abandoned

Talks to cobble together a right-wing coalition in the Netherlands combining the conservative liberals of Mark Rutte's VVD, the far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders and the centre-right Christian Democrats have ended without result after eight days.

Both the VVD and the Freedom Party (PVV) blame a rejectionist Christian Democrat position for the failure.

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The Christian Democrats of outgoing prime minister Jan Peter Balkanende refused to participate in the talks until the Freedom Party and the VVD had first reached an agreement.

"The Christian Democrats are simply pulling the plug," Mr Wilders told reporters on Thursday.

Mr Rutte, who won the election by one seat, for his part, said the anti-immigrant group had tried to come to an understanding.

"Mr Wilders took a constructive approach," he told the local media. The two parties, he added, had "sufficient common ground for a coalition with the Christian Democrats."

"Something like this has never happened in the history of parliament," he said.

Maxime Verhagen, currently leading the Christian Democrats (CDA) after Mr Balkanende's post-election resignation, rejected responsibility for the collapse of talks, saying that his party had to first wait for a concord between the other two parties.

The VVD are free-market liberals and intend to introduce swingeing austerity measures worth €45 billion, while the Freedom Party mixes anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric with opposition to cuts to pensions and some other public services.

Uri Rosenthal, the leader of the VVD in the Senate and the appointed broker of the talks said: "A VVD, PVV and CDA majority cabinet is impossible."

The three parties would have had a one-seat 76-member majority in the 150-seat house.

A coalition including Mr Wilders' party is now all but ruled out, with eyes instead turning to the possibility of a so-called purple coalition, between Labour, the VVD, the Green Left and the social liberals of D66.

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