Close to two months after the elections, the Netherlands still isn't very close to having a new government.
Initial "informative" coalition talks between the right-wing liberal VVD and the far-right Freedom Party broke down when the Christian-Democrats, whose participation would be necessary to get a majority, refused to join the talks, and the Freedom Party's Geert Wilders announced that there wasn't much point in talking then.
Those talks were followed by equally unproductive "informative" talks between the VVD, the left-liberal Democrats, the Labour Party and the Green Left. Such a center-left government would have a parliamentary majority, but most of the VVD's voters and many of its officials would be aghast. The VVD, unsurprisingly, soon declared that the talks weren't going anywhere.
That round was followed by strictly secret informative talks between the VVD, the Freedom Party and, this time, the Christian-Democrats too. Talks were led by former Prime Minister (and Christian-Democrat) Ruud Lubbers, and none of the select party leaders taking part leaked a word.
This weekend, they came out with a public announcement, declaring that the talks had offered prospects, and "formative" negotiations could now start to properly bang out a government program and team. Except it still wouldn't be a majority government: the Freedom Party would not officially take part, just support (or "tolerate") it from parliament.
Radio Netherlands reports on the fall out:
Negotiations on minority cabinet sparks row
"Deal with PVV splits CDA," bellows the headline on AD’s front page. The populist tabloid reports that CDA politicians across the country are furious about the coalition deal with the far-right Freedom Party and some prominent Christian Democrats are considering resigning from the party. Former minister Bert de Vries tells the paper, "I am deeply disappointed. The PVV is the last party that I'd want to do a deal with".
Several papers speculate that the decision to work with Mr Wilders' anti-Islam party could split the Christian Democrats, and de Volkskrant gleefully writes, "Deal with PVV causes turmoil in CDA". The left-wing paper reports that senior Christian Democrats, local politicians and Muslim members are furious and oppose the deal with the Freedom party.
The paper says Friday evening’s joint declaration whereby the three parties pledged to "accept each other's viewpoints regarding Islam" has infuriated some CDA members. Bert de Vries pops up in de Volkskrant, but this time he is, "deeply, deeply disappointed". The former minister says, "it was an extremely nasty surprise to discover that my party now find it acceptable to work with a party that does not recognize one of the world's major faiths as a religion".
Trouw soberly reports that if the proposed VVD/CDA negotiations on a minority cabinet supported by the Freedom Party go ahead later this week, "the talks will take place under an avalanche of criticism from every corner of The Hague". Trouw focuses on the criticism that negotiation facilitator Ruud Lubbers failed to fulfil his mission of putting together a majority cabinet: GreenLeft leader Femke Halsema tells the paper that Mr Lubbers’ decision is "a matter for serious dispute".
AD reports that left-wing parties believe that Mr Lubbers' decision to recommend negotiations towards a minority cabinet fall outside his remit and the former prime minister will have to explain himself to the lower house on Wednesday. The paper notes that MPs will return from their summer holidays to question Mr Lubbers.