Dutch Center-Right to Explore Pact with Greens

There are big policy differences between the liberals and the Greens, but those are the parties that won the election.

Dutch party leaders meet in The Hague the day after parliament elections, March 16
Dutch party leaders meet in The Hague the day after parliament elections, March 16 (Tweede Kamer)

Center-right parties in the Netherlands are exploring a coalition pact with the Greens after they nearly quadrupled their representation in parliament.

Edith Schippers, the outgoing health minister who is leading the first round of talks to form a coalition government, has invited the liberal, liberal Democrat, Christian Democrat and Green party leaders for a discussion on Thursday.

Mark Rutte, the caretaker prime minister, was tightlipped to reporters on Tuesday. His party lost eight of its 41 seats in the election last week but remained the single largest by far.

76 seats are needed for a majority in the lower chamber.

Kingmakers

Sybrand van Haersma Buma, the leader of the Christian Democrats, has suggested he could do a deal with the two liberal parties but not explicitly endorsed any coalition.

Alexander Pechtold, the leader of the pro-European liberal Democrats, is the only one who has expressed an outright preference for a four-party pact with the Greens.

The Christian Democrats and liberal Democrats occupy the center. It is hard to imagine a ruling coalition without either of them in what has become a highly fragmented political landscape.

Policy differences

Green party leader Jesse Klaver has told Schippers he would prefer a government of the left, but it is unlikely that he will get his wish.

The Christian Democrats have no desire to be the most right-wing party in a government. Labor has no desire to govern at all after it went down from 25 to 6 percent support in last week’s election.

Klaver pointed about to reporters on Tuesday that his party has very different view from Rutte’s liberals on everything from income to climate policy.

The Greens have made deals with the liberals before, but this would be the first time they formally joined a ruling coalition.

The Greens are eager to govern, but they also saw what happened to Labor after it ruled in coalition with the right for five years. The party would need significant concessions to justify a pact to its voters.

Alternatives

Should talks with the Greens fail, the other three parties could turn to the smaller Christian Union. Together, those four parties would have a one-seat majority in the lower house.

Other options include a grand coalition with Labor, a right-wing coalition with the nationalist Freedom Party and a minority liberal government. Neither is likely at this stage.

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