Negotiators in last dash for coalition agreement

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Negotiators are on the brink of finalising a coalition agreement for a new Dutch cabinet. The deal between the conservative VVD and Christian Democrats should be in place within the next 48 hours, according to sources in The Hague. At the same time the two parties will sign a separate agreement with the far-right Freedom Party, on which the new cabinet will rely for its majority in parliament.

If the agreements are ready within the next two days, they can be put to a special Christian Democrat (CDA) congress for approval as early as Saturday. All eyes will then be on the CDA, as many in the party have expressed grave concerns about the cooperation with Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party. Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen has faced broadsides from a string of party elder statesmen, and two dissident CDA MPs threaten the coalition’s flimsy one-seat majority. To complicate matters further, on Saturday Mr Wilders will be giving an anti-Islam speech in Berlin.

At the end of their Monday session, on what was day 110 of the cabinet formation, the party leaders themselves declined to comment on whether they are actually about to reveal a final agreement. Negotiations for a rightwing cabinet headed by VVD leader Mark Rutte have been underway since 5 August, after the failure of talks on a possible ‘purple’ cabinet, comprising the ‘blue’ VVD and three ‘red’ left-of-centre parties.

If the negotiations drag on beyond this week, Mr Wilders will have a clash of appointments in his diary. In the fortnight from 4 October, he has to appear in an Amsterdam court for a total of six days on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

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