Dutch government formation still a puzzle 12 weeks after election

2 weeks ago 60

AMSTERDAM - Efforts to form a government in the Netherlands are back at square one 12 weeks after an election won by the nationalist Freedom Party (PVV) of anti-Muslim populist Geert Wilders but well short of a majority.

Here's a look at the scenarios left on the table.

RIGHT-WING MAJORITY GOVERNMENT

Since his victory with a quarter of the vote on Nov. 22, Wilders has been trying to form a coalition with the centre-right VVD of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the centrist NSC and the farmers protest party BBB. This would create a comfortable majority of 88 seats in the 150-seat Lower House.

But talks failed to gain traction as Wilders struggled to overcome the reluctance of both VVD and NSC to work with him. In a report on the talks issued on Monday, NSC finally pulled the plug, citing what it said was Wilders' lack of respect for the rule of law, an accusation he has dismissed.

The intermediary leading the talks said he still thought an agreement could be possible, but the NSC in its report ruled out joining any coalition with Wilders.

RIGHT-WING MINORITY GOVERNMENT

The most logical step now would be for PVV, VVD and BBB to try to cobble together a minority government, to which NSC chief Pieter Omtzigt said he would consider giving outside support.

The Netherlands is usually governed by majority coalitions that nail down their agreements in detailed government pacts, but there have been minority governments before. The most recent example is Rutte's first government, which functioned with the support of the PVV from 2010 to 2012.

OTHER COMBINATIONS

Theoretically, combinations of parties other than those that were at the table until now could try to form a government, for instance a Green Left-Labour alliance - led by ex-European Union climate commissioner Frans Timmermans - that was the runner-up in the November election.

But Timmermans has excluded working with Wilders, and earlier this month said it was very unlikely his party would play any role in forming the next government.

Without Timmermans' party there is no realistic option for a majority government other than the on...

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