Dutch Christian, Liberal Parties End Talks, Putting Pressure on Labor

Labor is reluctant to govern after it lost the election, but it now holds the key to forming a majority government.

Dutch liberal Democrat party leader Alexander Pechtold visits Breda, November 7, 2009
Dutch liberal Democrat party leader Alexander Pechtold visits Breda, November 7, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons/Sebastiaan ter Burg)

The Christian Union and liberal Democrats in the Netherlands have broken off talks to join a coalition government, citing irreconcilable differences in drug, euthanasia and income policies.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party and the Christian Democrats had called for negotiations between the four parties. They share views with the Christian Union and liberal Democrats on labor and tax reform as well as health care.

But during a meeting on Tuesday, the leaders of the Christian Union and liberal Democrats failed to bridge their differences. The former cannot allow the legalization of marijuana and an expansion of euthanasia rights; the latter opposes income policies that favor families over individuals.

Talks earlier failed with the Green party, whose support went up from 2 to 9 percent in the election in March.

Remaining alternatives include a coalition with Labor or a minority center-right government.

Blockades

The liberal Democrat leader, Alexander Pechtold, has proposed to negotiate with both Labor and the far-left Socialist Party to see if a grand coalition of five parties can be formed.

But this option is blocked by the Socialists, who see no point in talking to Rutte’s liberals.

Swapping the liberals for the Greens in such a constellation would be unacceptable to the Christian Democrats, who don’t want to be the most right-wing party in a coalition.

Last resort

The Christian Democrats, liberal Democrats, liberal party and Labor would have a majority in both chambers, but Labor is reluctant to remain in government. It has suffered an historic defeat, winning less than 6 percent support in the election. Most of its voters switched to the Greens.

A coalition with the nativist Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, is still unacceptable to most other parties.

A last-resort option would be for Rutte to form a minority government, consisting of either his liberal party on its own or the three center-right parties.

This would not be unprecedented. Rutte’s first administration, from 2010 to 2012, was a minority government with the Christian Democrats. His second cabinet, with Labor, relied on other parties for a majority in the Senate.