Dutch Must Restart Coalition Talks After Collapse on Immigration

(Bloomberg) -- Dutch lawmakers will have to decide how to press ahead with forming a new multiparty government after two months of coalition talks unexpectedly collapsed late Monday.

The breakdown of the negotiations between Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals, the Christian Democrats, the centrist D66 party and the Greens came exactly two months after general elections in the Netherlands. The discussions faltered over disagreements on immigration, Edith Schippers, the Liberal health minister appointed by parliament to lead the talks, told reporters in The Hague.

“It simply didn’t work on various issues related to migration, and this can’t be solved with money alone,” Schippers said. “We have worked really hard but the differences are just too big.”

Between them, the four parties won 85 seats in the 150-member lower house on March 15, a total which would have given them a majority of 20. Until Monday, the parties had held 18 negotiating sessions and there had been little indication that the talks were in trouble.

What happens next will be up to the lower house. Schippers will draw up a final report, a debate will take place, and lawmakers will decide on the way forward in the next few days.

The most likely decision is that new talks will start as soon as possible involving the Liberals, Christian Democrats and the centrist D66 because they have 71 seats between them. The Christian Union party, which has five seats, is an alternative fourth partner, but such an alliance would have a majority of only two seats in the lower chamber.

Thirteen Parties

Forming Dutch coalitions is a time-consuming process, but with 13 parties now represented in an increasingly fragmented chamber, it’s getting more and more difficult to agree on a government. Almost all the other parties have ruled out working with Geert Wilders’s anti-Islam, anti European Union Freedom Party, which came second in the March 15 election.

“We gave it all,” Green leader Jesse Klaver said on Twitter, expressing his disappointment about the failed talks. Alexander Pechtold, the leader of D66, said no individual was to blame. Rutte declined to comment on which parties the new talks should involve, telling national broadcaster NOS that the two months of failed discussions had been “very pleasant.”

Wilders welcomed the breakdown with a tweet saying ‘’Very good news. No Greens’’ and adding that the Freedom Party is “totally available’’ for new talks.

Forming a Dutch coalition government has taken an average of 72 days since World War II, so Monday’s collapse is not out of the ordinary. In 1977, the entire process took 208 days.