AMSTERDAM -Four Dutch political parties, including caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD Party, agreed on Thursday to hold talks on forming a new coalition government, a breakthrough more than six months after a national election.
The four parties are the same as had formed Rutte’s previous government, though it had been seen as impossible for them to continue together after the March 17 election in which VVD‘s biggest rival on the left, the liberal, pro-European D66 party, booked major gains.
The compromise came from D66 leader Sigrid Kaag, who said the only alternative left was a new election that would mean further delay and possibly no change in the situation. “And that also plays into the hands of populists. So we’re going to negotiate” with the right-leaning parties, she said.
The outgoing coalition, which has governed in a caretaker capacity since the election, comprises Rutte’s VVD, the Christian Democratic CDA, the small Christian Union and the D66.
Rutte said the four could “really make a new beginning” and if a new government was formed it would not be a “continuation” of the old one.
Rutte, 54, has been in power since 2010 and his party remains the largest in parliament, but with just 22% of the vote he needs several partners to form a government.
Post post-election talks have been difficult due to a fractured political landscape, with 17 parties winning seats.
Rutte narrowly survived a motion of no-confidence in the first weeks of the talks.
In the following months, D66 had tried to bring left-leaning parties to the negotiating table for balance, which the VVD-CDA block refused.
The leader of the round of talks that concluded on Thursday recommended leftist parties could be called on for “constructive involvement” in the drafting of a governing pact.