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Deal reached on new four-party coalition Dutch government

By AFP | 2017-10-09 12:13:49.0

The leaders of four Dutch political parties said Monday after an eye-popping 208 days of talks that they had reached a deal for a new coalition government.

The accord, the result of months of behind-the-scenes wrangling since the March elections, was Monday to go to the parties’ members and to parliament for final approval, with an official announcement expected Tuesday.

Some seven months after the polls, the deal will see outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s business-friendly liberal VVD party hook up with the progressive D66 as well as two Christian parties, the pragmatic CDA and the more conservative Christian Union.

The negotiations have rivalled the 208-day record, set in 1977, for the longest-running talks to form a government.

But it will only give the new coalition a total of 76 MPs in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, just a slim one-seat majority.

Analysts have already warned it could prove an uneasy and fragile marriage given the differences between the parties.

But Rutte emerged from talks Monday telling reporters: “I am really happy“.  “Exactly on the day that the government formation will surpass the previous record to form a government, there is... an agreement. We are sharing it with our MPs this afternoon,” he added.

Rutte is expected to stay on as prime minister at the helm of his third Dutch government. But the other cabinet posts are not likely to be unveiled until about October 23, the public broadcaster NOS said.

A first attempt shortly after the March elections to form a four-party coalition with the eco-friendly GreenLeft party collapsed amid differences over immigration.  The Dutch political landscape has been further complicated by the rampant rise of the far-right, poaching votes from traditional centre-right parties and the crumbling of the traditional left.

Rutte’s party won 33 seats in the March vote, but vowed not to work with the anti-Islam far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders which boosted its standing to come second with 20 deputies.

Both the D66 and the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) won 19 seats, but the three parties needed to ally with the more conservative CU with its five seats to win a parliamentary majority.

“At last, at last... I am happy. I think it’s a even-handed accord in line what everybody wants,” said D66 leader Alexander Pechtold.