Rutte turns to lib­er­als and centre-right

Financial Times Middle East - - Front Page - DUN­CAN ROBIN­SON AND JIM BRUNSDEN BRUS­SELS

Dutch pre­mier Mark Rutte has tar­geted a tie-up with other lib­eral and centre-right par­ties in or­der to form a govern­ment, as pop­ulist Geert Wilders in­sisted he should not be over­looked.—

Dutch prime min­is­ter Mark Rutte has set out his pref­er­ences for a tie-up with other lib­eral and centre-right par­ties to form a govern­ment, as pop­ulist chal­lenger Geert Wilders in­sisted he should not be over­looked af­ter last week’s elec­tion re­sult.

Other po­lit­i­cal lead­ers also backed a broadly cen­trist coali­tion dur­ing pre­lim­i­nary talks yes­ter­day. Ne­go­ti­a­tions are nev­er­the­less set to take months.

Dutch vot­ers gave Mr Rutte’s People’s Party for Free­dom and Democ­racy (VVD) a sur­pris­ingly large win over ri­val par­ties in­clud­ing Mr Wilders’ anti Is­lam Party for Free­dom (PVV).

The elec­tion re­sult, which will give Mr Rutte the first chance to form a new ad­min­is­tra­tion, was hailed by mod­er­ate po­lit­i­cal lead­ers across Europe as a re­jec­tion of pop­ulism.

Mr Rutte, whose VVD will hold 33 seats in the 150-seat par­lia­ment, said that “given the elec­tion re­sults” he would prefer a coali­tion that in­cluded the lib­eral D66 and the centre-right Chris­tian Democratic Ap­peal. Each won 19seats.

Af­ter gov­ern­ing for five years with­out a ma­jor­ity in the Dutch Se­nate, the prime min­is­ter said he wanted a “sta­ble ma­jor­ity govern­ment with sup­port in both houses”, mean­ing that a fourth party would be re­quired.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, all ma­jor par­ties pledged not to form a coali­tion with Mr Wilders’ party, which took 20 seats. But Mr Wilders said yes­ter­day it would be “un­demo­cratic” if the PVV were not taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. “You can­not ig­nore 1.3m vot­ers in ad­vance,” he said.

Sup­port for large par­ties frag­mented in the elec­tion and only the VVD won more than 20 per cent of the vote, mak­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions even more com­plex than nor­mal.

Yes­ter­day the lead­ers of all 13 par­ties in­di­vid­u­ally met a “scout” ap­pointed by par­lia­ment to ex­plore po­ten­tial coali­tion op­tions. VVD, D66 and CDA have a com­bined 71 seats, just short of the 76 re­quired for an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity.

One po­ten­tial fourth party in a coali­tion is Green Left, the stand­out per­former dur­ing last week’s vote, jump­ing from four seats in 2012 to 14 seats.

A four-way coali­tion in­clud­ing Green Left would en­joy a nine-seat ma­jor­ity. Other op­tions for a four-party govern­ment in­clude the so­cial­ists, the Chris­tian Union and even Labour, in coali­tion with Mr Rutte since 2012, which fell from 38 seats to nine.

“From a VVD perspective, [the po­ten­tial fourth party] all have pros and cons ,” said the prime min­is­ter.

Jesse Klaver, the charis­matic 30-yearold leader of Green Left, faces the biggest dilemma. Af­ter shep­herd­ing the party to a his­toric re­sult, the once fringe party has the chance to join a govern­ment for the first time. But through­out the cam­paign, and again yes­ter­day, Mr Klaver said he would prefer to form a govern­ment with­out Mr Rut te’ scent re right party .“We prefer a Chris­tian, pro­gres­sive coali­tion ,” said Mr Kl aver.

Such a coali­tion is pos­si­ble, but un­likely, since it would re­quire six par­ties from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

Speak­ing in Brus­sels, Jeroen Di­js­sel­bloem, the Dutch fi­nance min­is­ter, sug­gested the coali­tion talks could po­ten­tially last un­til next year. Mr Di­js­sel­bloem’s Labour party is set to leave govern­ment af­ter its drub­bing, rais­ing the ques­tion of how long he can con­tinue as pres­i­dent of the eu­rogroup of fi­nance min­is­ters, an EU role that makes him a key deal maker on euro area bail outs.

But Mr Di­js­sel­bloem said it was “too early to say” if there would even be a new Dutch fi­nance min­is­ter be­fore his term as eu­rogroup pres­i­dent ended in Jan­uary.

Wilders said it would be ‘un­demo­cratic’ if the PVV were not taken into con­sid­er­a­tion

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