Talks between Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD and three other parties have ended without success. The smallest of the possible coalition partners, Green Left, refused to break a promise on immigration.
Anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders tweeted that the break down of coalition negotiations between four Dutch parties on Monday was "very good news" before adding that his Freedom Party (PVV) was "fully available" to join the next round of talks.
Wilders and his right-wing populist PVV are not involved in the negotiations despite winning the second-largest number of seats in parliament, after Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other mainstream parties refused to work with him.
Immigration policy was the main sticking point that forced the ending of several weeks of talks between Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberals (VVD), the Christian Democrats (CDA), the progressive Democracy Party (D66) and the leftist GreenLeft.
It is likely that Rutte will now turn to another, smaller party such as the conservative Christian Union to secure a very narrow 76-seat majority but Monday's breakdown is likely to set back the formation of a government by months.
Gap too wide
GreenLeft, headed by the 31-year-old, charismatic Jesse Klaver, had campaigned for a more generous asylum policy, while the other parties advocated a tougher approach to head off criticism from Wilders.
Doubts were raised at the beginning of talks over whether Klaver would be prepared to make the kind of compromises demanded by the other coalition hopefuls.
As well as immigration, there were also differences over policies on climate change and income levels, Rutte told reporters.
"We wanted them to be successful, but we didn't succeed. We decided together that it just wouldn't work," he said.
GreenLeft tweeted that "important differences were found to be too large."
Rutte's VVD won the largest number of seats (33) in the March 15 election, but the party's close ties with the CDA and D66 were not enough to secure a majority in the 150-seat lower house, despite them winning 19 seats each.
Green Left won 20 seats, thanks in part to charismatic leader Jesse Klaver, but they won't be part of the government
Green Left was seen as vital to securing a comfortable 85 seats, as well as a new cabinet in a reasonable timeframe
Dutch coalitions take an average of nearly three months to be formed. In 1977, it took a record 208 days to agree a new cabinet.
mm/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)