Brussels (Brussels Morning) Ongoing coalition talks in the Netherlands have officially become the longest in the country’s recorded history when, on Friday, 226 days had elapsed since the 17 March elections with no majority formation outcome as yet in sight.
Drawn-out coalition talks are not uncommon in the Netherlands, with the eventual formation of government often not taking final shape until many months after the election results are made clear. This time around, it has taken months for potential partners even to agree as to who will participate in the negotiations.
The current technical government, still headed by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, meanwhile is unable to address any of the urgent matters on the table. Rutte’s party emerged as a relative winner of the March elections, and it is likely but by no means certain that he will remain in power.
The four parties that have jointly ruled the Netherlands since 2017 – Rutte’s People’s Party (VVD), Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Democrats 66 (D66) and the Christian Union (CU) – finally agreed to prolong their partnership last month, but no progress in their talks has been reported since.
Political historian Carla van Baalen told Reuters that the current development is remarkable. “We have never seen a situation in which no real talks were held for months following the elections”, she said. “Only urgent problems, such as immediate measures to fight COVID-19, are addressed.”
Rutte’s VVD came first in March, albeit with only 22% support, which means he would need the support of at least three other parties in order to form a working majority. On Wednesday, he met with the leaders of CDA, D66 and CU, in what was supposed to be a three-day retreat to iron out the details of the future coalition.
However, as the talks concluded, Rutte said an agreement had yet to be reached. More talks would follow in the coming week, he said, and would probably continue into the following week, as well. “There is still a lot of work to do,” he said.