Dutch Liberal leader mulls coalition with far-right
The leader of the Dutch Liberal party met with head of state Queen Beatrix on Friday to discuss "complicated" coalition talks, as he weighed a possible alliance with a far-right anti-Muslim party.
Mark Rutte, whose party scraped to a one-seat victory in Wednesday's general elections, went to the palace in The Hague at 9:30 am (0730 GMT) and met with the monarch for an hour and a quarter, the government information service said.
The polls plunged the Netherlands into shock as the controversial far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) secured third place with 24 seats out of 150 -- close behind Rutte's Liberal VVD party on 31 and the Labour Party (PvdA) on 30.
Asked by reporters whether Queen Beatrix had asked him if he was a candidate for the post of prime minister, traditionally held by the head of the party with the most seats after an election, Rutte told journalists: "Of course".
The 43-year-old acknowledged that the political situation was "very complicated", but said "we must form a government" to help move forward the country's economy.
On whether he would form a coalition with Geert Wilders -- the outspoken leader of the PVV known for his anti-Islam policies and shock of dyed blonde hair -- Rutte was more coy.
"We must in the first place look carefully at the possibility of allowing the PVV to take part in such a coalition," said Rutte.
"What is important for me is that we want to take part in a government which will effectively take the economic recovery in hand."
Queen Beatrix will also meet the other party chiefs, notably Labour leader Job Cohen and Wilders, who demanded a share of government after his party more than doubled its previous nine seats in the lower house of parliament.
"I am ready," Wilders, 46, was quoted as saying in Friday's edition of the Nrc.next newspaper.
The monarch will appoint an envoy to communicate among the parties. Negotiations are expected to take weeks, if not months.
Wilders is under 24-hour protection because of his party's controversial policies, which include an end to immigration from Muslim countries as well as a ban on new mosques and the Koran.
He is known abroad for his 17-minute commentary, "Fitna", which was termed "offensively anti-Islamic" by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and was barred from entering Britain last year to stop him spreading "hatred".
Political analysts say there are a number of different possible coalitions. The Liberals could form an alliance with the Christian Democrats (CDA) and either the far-right PVV or Labour.
Alternatively, a coalition could be formed with Labour, the Greens and the centrist D66, but the chances of this were described as "remote" by Rutte, in comments in De Telegraaf newspaper Friday.
The election was triggered after the collapse of the centre-left coalition led by Jan Peter Balkenende of the Christian Democrats, caused by disagreements over the presence of Dutch troops in Afghanistan.
The PVV pushed the Christian Democrats into fourth place.
Analysts say there could be fresh elections within a year.
© 2010 AFP