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article imageDutch government reaches post-WWII longevity record

By AFP     Aug 20, 2017 in Politics

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's cabinet has become the longest serving in the Netherlands since World War II, a milestone reached in large part because of dragged-out talks to form a viable coalition government.

The so-called Rutte II government has been in place for 1,749 days, surpassing on Sunday the record held by prime minister Ruud Lubbers from 1989 to 1994, according to media reports.

Rutte called the achievement a "good performance" while acknowledging in comments to the ANP news agency that it resulted "mainly from the slow formation" of a new government since inconclusive elections in March.

Drawn-out coalition talks are par for the course in the Netherlands, with the longest lasting 208 days, in 1977.

The current government was formed in late 2012 after just 54 days of negotiations, with the country anxious for political stability at a time of economic turbulence.

But as of Sunday the talks aimed at forming a Rutte III coalition have lasted 158 days.

A first attempt to include the leftwing ecology-based GroenLinks party in a four-way coalition broke down in May amid differences over immigration, leading the first person tasked with trying to form a government to step down.

A second person also stepped down after failing to get a cabinet together, though he did manage to find three willing partners to govern alongside Rutte's Liberal VVD party.

The Volkskrant newspaper has reported that former ABN Amro boss Gerrit Zalm, the third person facing the task, has secured the outlines of a deal with the conservative CDA party, the progressive D66 and the Christian Union.

Rutte's VVD won 33 seats, far short of the 76 needed for a majority in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, but together with the other three parties it would just reach the threshold required.

All these parties have refused to work with the far-right, anti-Islam Freedom party of Geert Wilders, which came second in the March vote with 20 seats.

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