Match-making: Dutch coalition building process begins

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An initial round of match-making talks to investigate possibilities for a new Dutch ruling coalition began Monday in parliament following last week's elections.

Don't expect negotiations to end any time soon.

Thirteen parties won seats in the 150-seat lower house, and analysts say that the splintered political landscape will likely lead to a long and complicated Cabinet formation.

Edith Schippers, health minister in Prime Minister Mark Rutte's last coalition, began one-on-one discussions Monday with party leaders about their preferences for the next Cabinet.

She will report on the possibilities later this week and newly elected lawmakers are expected to debate the election result Thursday.

First into the talks was Rutte, whose party won the most seats — 33 — and is therefore most likely to lead the next government. Rutte told reporters that he wants a "stable majority Cabinet." That means a coalition of at least four parties — Rutte's plus three others.

One party that looks very unlikely to be in the new coalition is the Party for Freedom of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders. The party came second with 20 seats, but mainstream leaders have ruled out working with him.

Wilders criticized that stance Monday as "undemocratic."

He told Dutch reporters at Parliament that he advised Schippers to "take the 1.3 million voters I represent as the second party in the Netherlands seriously. And I hope and, to be honest, expect that parties will talk to us about the new Cabinet."

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