Dutch coalition agreement could be a matter of hours
Negotiators are on the brink of finalising a coalition agreement for a new Dutch cabinet. The deal between the conservative VVD and Christian Democrats CDA could be finalised today, says coalition mediator Ivo Opstelten. If this happens the outcome of the talks could be put to the VVD, CDA and Freedom party parliamentary parties on Wednesday. Mr Opstelten will be informed of the reactions of the three parliamentary parties on Thursday.
A minority VVD-Christian Democrat government would rely on parliamentary support from the far-right Freedom Party for a majority in the Lower House. Consequently there are two agreements being negotiated. A coalition deal and second agreement with the Freedom Party for its support. VVD leader Mark Rutte says the new cabinet will be named Rutte-Verhagen.
If agreement is reached within the next couple of days, the Christian Democrat Party will hold a special congress on Saturday to seek approval for the deal. All eyes will then be on the CDA, as many members of the party have expressed grave concerns about the cooperation with Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party. Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen has faced broadsides from a string of party elder statesmen, and two dissident CDA MPs threaten the coalition's flimsy one-seat majority. To complicate matters further, on Saturday Mr Wilders will be giving an anti-Islam speech in Berlin.
Today is day 111 of the cabinet formation. The elections were held on 9 June. Negotiations for a rightwing cabinet headed by VVD leader Mark Rutte have been underway since 5 August, after the failure of talks on a possible 'purple' cabinet, comprising the 'blue' VVD and three 'red' left-of-centre parties.
The talks for a rightwing cabinet were broken off in early September after the Freedom Party pulled out doubting CDA resolve to see the negotiations through. A letter by CDA co-negotiator Ab Klink voicing his reservations had been leaked to the press. After the resignation of Mr Klink, the Freedom Party agreed to come back to the negotiating table.
Labour Party leader Job Cohen has called the prospect of a right-wing government with support from the Freedom Party “the worst conceivable outcome of the coalition talks”. Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer says he is concerned about the measures in the agreements. Democrat D66 leader Alexander Pechtold called the development “an ill-fated adventure”.
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