Schippers ‘to stay on to lead coalition talks’

Edith Schippers with GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver. Photo: David van Dam/HH

Departing health minister Edith Schippers is set to continue in her role co-ordinating talks to form a new Dutch government, sources have told the Telegraaf.

Schippers held a series of meetings with all 13 party leaders last week in her role as ‘verkenner’, which required her to sound out potential coalition partners. The results of those discussions are due to be debated in Parliament on Monday.

Four parties have agreed to enter into coalition talks later this week: prime minister Mark Rutte’s VVD, the Christian Democrats, D66 and the left-wing environmentalist party GroenLinks. Schippers, a party colleague of Rutte’s and health minister since 2010, is understood to be the only ‘informateur’ proposed so far to co-ordinate the negotiations. She has ruled herself out of a seat in the new cabinet.

Rutte has said he is looking to form a majority government, but strong ideological differences between his right-wing Liberal party and GroenLinks are expected to lead to difficult, drawn-out negotiations.

GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver has said the proposed four-party combination is ‘far from ideal’, while Rutte acknowledged that the differences are ‘considerable’. Support for GroenLinks involvement comes mainly from D66 leader Alexander Pechtold, who would prefer another progressive party in the coalition to the alternative of a partnership with the Christian Union (CU).

Figures released last week showing that the Dutch budget ran a €3bn surplus, which is likely to slow down the negotiations as the parties are under no pressure to come up with a quick solution. In 2012 the VVD and Labour (PvdA) produced a coalition agreement inside two months, partly because of the need to find billions of euros of austerity measures during a recession.

However, GroenLinks will want to avoid a similar fate to the PvdA, which haemorrhaged support during its term of office and retained just nine out of 38 seats in last month’s election.