Formation process begins in earnest today

The leaders of the Christian Democrats, Labour (PvdA) and ChristenUnie get down to business today and start serious talks on forming a new government – some six weeks after the general election. The talks are taking place under the leadership of CDA stalwart Herman Wijffels.

The three leaders – prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende (CDA), Wouter Bos (PvdA) and AndrĂ© Rouvoet (CU) – agreed procedures and timetables with Wijffels before the Christmas break.
Sources told news agency ANP that the talks were likely to focus first on finding a joint mission statement. ‘That way you create a ‘we are in this together’ feeling,’ one source said.
The three parties have sharply different standpoints in some areas, such as pensions. And talks between Balkenende and Bos after the 2003 election failed because of what commentators said was the lack of chemistry between the two.
All three men are known to want to have deal before the provincial elections on March 7. The results of the provincial elections determine the political make-up of the Senate, or upper house of parliament. The last four cabinets have all taken at least 100 days to finalise.

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