After the failure of centre-left coalition talks in the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix has appointed Minister of State Ruud Lubbers the new coalition negotiator.
His brief is to investigate which combination of parties will command enough support in the Lower House to ensure a stable government. The queen has asked him to report back "at very short notice". It's six weeks since the general elections, and still no new government has been formed.
Mr Lubbers told reporters on Thursday afternoon he will hold talks with all party leaders, to hear their views on the next steps to be taken. The coalition negotiator will also involve parties which were sidelined earlier in the process, such as Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party and the traditional left-wing Socialist Party.
After the 9 June general elections, no clear majority emerged. With Mr Lubbers, a Christian Democrat and a former prime minister, the Christian Democrats are returning to centre stage. The once powerful party was decimated in the vote, becoming the fourth largest party in parliament after Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, and had to relinquish its dominance over national politics. Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen stayed out of the coalition negotiations, citing the need to "be modest" after the election loss. Grassroots objections against the Christian Democrats joining forces with the anti-Islam Freedom Party may also have prompted Mr Verhagen's reticence.
Many majority combinations are mathematically possible, but each of those groupings is opposed by at least one of the potential partners. Conservative free-market liberals VVD and Labour disagree fundamentally about the need for fast and deep budget cuts; Christian Democrats don't want to be seen supporting Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, and so on. As is customary in coalition negotiations, every round of talks is held behind closed doors and the media are kept at a distance until the royally appointed coalition negotiator declares the outcome of the talks. Coalition negotiations are widely seen as the least democratic element in the Dutch system of government.
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