Dutch MPs returned temporarily from their summer recess today for a special debate with chief negotiator Ruud Lubbers about the progress of the coalition talks.
The public gallery was jammed solid as the party leaders on the left and the right passed judgment on the proposed coalition of the conservative VVD and the centre-right Christian Democrats which could become the first minority government in the Netherlands since World War II. They plan to rule with parliamentary support from Geert Wilders' anti-Islamic Freedom Party.
Ruud Lubbers said he regretted he had not been able to look at other alternatives but said he had been left little choice. It would have been worse, he said, if he had returned empty-handed.
Labour Party leader Job Cohen said Geert Wilders was the real winner. He was "the puppet master pulling the strings behind the scenes. With all the advantages and none of the responsibility."
Green Left's Femke Halsema called the minority coalition the "worst conceivable alternative" and accused Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen of betraying his principles. She quoted his own words about Geert Wilders about whom he once said "by spreading fear and hatred he is involved only in destruction".
Referring to the cutbacks proposed by the right-wing parties she added that Mr Verhagen now "apparently regards cuts in social security as more important than freedom of worship".
The Christian Democrat leader did not respond directly but later told reporters: "I still believe what I believe and that is why we're talking about a minority government supported by the Freedom Party rather than a majority coalition." He added that the left-wing parties shouldn't indulge in scaremongering.