Dutch Health Minister Asked to Lead Coalition Talks

The liberal party’s outgoing health minister is asked to lead the first round of coalition talks in the Netherlands.

Dutch health minister Edith Schippers speaks with European counterparts in Amsterdam, April 18, 2016
Dutch health minister Edith Schippers speaks with European counterparts in Amsterdam, April 18, 2016 (Rijksoverheid/Valerie Kuypers)

Outgoing Dutch health minister Edith Schippers has been asked by party leaders to lead the first round of talks to form a coalition government.

Khadija Arib, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, had convened the leaders of the thirteen parties that won seats on Wednesday in The Hague to discuss their options.

They agreed to ask Schippers, who is a prominent member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party, to lead exploratory talks.

She is due to speak with all parties and report her findings to the new parliament next week. After a debate, parliament is likely to name an informateur, who would then lead talks to explore the most promising coalition option.

Searching for a majority

Rutte’s liberals placed first on Wednesday but fell short of an overall majority. The liberal Democrats and Christian Democrats both gained seats and they are politically close to Rutte. A coalition of those three parties would make sense.

But they are five seats short of a majority in the lower house.

The Greens, who quadrupled their seats, are the logical fourth choice. But they are reluctant to govern without Labor.

Adding Labor to the coalition would tilt the balance to the left and make it harder for the three parties in the center to enact health, labor and tax reforms.

Labor also suffered an historic defeat and may prefer to lick its wounds in opposition.

Another option is governing with the Christian right, but that might be uncomfortable for the secular liberal Democrats.