The West

Dutch PM starts  building coalition
Dutch PM starts building coalition

Dutch Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte has begun hammering out behind closed doors the coalition he will lead after receiving a solid mandate to battle Europe's debt crisis.

Mr Rutte's ruling VVD won Wednesday's election with 41 seats, just three more than centre-left Labour, at the expense of anti-Europe populist parties like Geert Wilders' far-right party, which suffered a humiliating defeat, and far-left Socialist leader Emile Roemer who made no gains.

"As leader of the largest party I feel a particular sense of responsibility and therefore I don't want to comment," on coalition-forming, Mr Rutte told public broadcaster NOS after the first meeting of his own parliamentary group on Thursday.

"I'm calling for radio silence," he said when asked if he had spoken to his most likely main coalition partner, Labour leader Diederik Samsom.

Earlier Mr Rutte told the party faithful "we will not betray your trust", after the VVD won the most seats ever, running against a European trend that has seen governments toppled as the debt crisis bites ever deeper.

The election success of Mr Rutte's VVD, closely followed by rising star Samsom's PvdA, means that the new coalition will be moderate and marks a victory for parties committed to debt-busting austerity.

The vote reflected the Netherlands' commitment to its relationship with the rest of Europe and will keep the eurozone's fifth largest economy closely allied with economic powerhouse Germany.

Claes de Vreese, political communication lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, said: "This is one of the only leaders in Europe that has had elections right in the middle of the crisis and who was re-elected.

"In fact, when you look at the results, he wasn't only re-elected but his support grew."

If the two main parties agree an alliance, the VVD and Labour would have 79 seats, a majority in the 150-seat parliament but the coalition would likely want more partners.

A new prognosis ahead of the final tally, still to be announced by the Electoral Commission, showed Labour losing one seat from 39 to 38 to environmental party GreenLeft.

The West Australian

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