After 208 days, 4 Dutch parties agree on govt coalition

In this Tuesday March 14, 2017, file photo Democrats 66 party leader Alexander Pechtold, right-wing populist leader Geert Wilders, Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer, Party for the Animals' Marianne Thieme, Green Left party leader Jesse Klaver, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Gert-Jan Segers of the Christian Union, Labour Party leader Lodewijk Asscher, and Christan Democrats party leader Sybrand Buma, from left, pose for a picture after the closing debate at parliament in The Hague, Netherlands. The leaders of four parties negotiating to form the next Dutch government have reached agreement on a draft program for a new center-right coalition, after 208 days of negotiations. (Robin van Lonkhuijsen ANP POOL via AP, File)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — After 208 days of tough negotiations, the leaders of four Dutch parties agreed Monday on a draft program for a new center-right coalition government under Prime Minister Mark Rutte that will likely push policies further to the right.

Centrist D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said that after years of austerity, the new government will reward voters with lower taxes.

“We are coming out of crisis, so we can invest, taxes can be lowered,” Pechtold told reporters.

Rutte is expected to officially unveil the program on Tuesday along with the leaders of the Christian Democrats, the D66 party and a faith-based party, the Christian Union.

The leaders spent a final morning checking the agreement before heading to their parliamentary offices to present it to their parties’ lawmakers, who could still suggest minor amendments. Such changes, if necessary, could set off yet a new round of bargaining between the parties.

The March 15 election gave the coalition a narrow one-seat majority in the 150-seat lower house of the Dutch parliament and ended Rutte’s alliance with the center-left Labor Party.

“I am very happy,” said Rutte, who is in line to form his third ruling coalition. “Precisely on the day that this (government) formation is overtaking the longest previous formation we have … a negotiators’ agreement.”

The four parties’ negotiators attempted to hammer out an agreement that will offer something to all of their lawmakers.

“That is why we spent a lot of time on the content and I think that’s the reason that it’s a solid deal,” said Pechtold.

Gert-Jan Segers, leader of the Christian Union, which has only five seats in the lower house of Parliament, said the negotiations involved a lot of give and take.

“So it’s not all good, but there are a number of points that are clearly recognizable for the Christian Union that I am very happy with,” he said. “This brings our ideals a step closer.”

Once the deal has been formally presented, Rutte will begin appointing ministers to his new administration. The coalition is expected to be finalized and sworn in later this month by the Dutch king. 

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press