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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Dutch coalition building starts
Christian Democrat leader Jan Peter Balkenende
Balkenende has not said if he will share power with LPF
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has taken the first step towards the creation of a coalition government following the dramatic swing to the right in Wednesday's general election.

On Friday she met the leaders of all 10 elected political parties, one of whom will be chosen to lead a government.

Election result chart
Preliminary official results
The process could take weeks or months to complete, but correspondents say the two parties that won most seats - the Christian Democrats and the anti-immigration party of the late Pim Fortuyn - are likely to be included in the coalition.

The Christian Democrats (CDA), led by former professor Jan Peter Balkenende, have been putting pressure on the Pim Fortuyn List party (LPF) to soften its position on immigration.

Respect for religions

"Balkenende has said it would be unacceptable to argue no more immigrants should be allowed into the Netherlands," said CDA spokesman Hans van der Vlies.

  Click here for a graphic comparing seats in parliament 1998 and 2002

He added that respect for other religions was one of the party's core beliefs.

Mr Fortuyn appears to have struck a chord with voters by declaring that the Netherlands was "full", and calling for the borders to be closed to immigrants.

He also described Islam as "backward", and argued that immigrants should be obliged to accept liberal Dutch values.


We want to create a stable government so we can realise the aims of our party

Mat Herben
Since the election, the party has indicated a readiness to compromise.

On Thursday its new leader, Mat Herben, said it had already shaken up the country enough, and wanted now to concentrate on the party's policies of increasing prosperity, improving health and education, and reducing crime.

Another leading member of the party, Joao Varela, has been quoted as saying since the election that Dutch borders would not have to be totally closed.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says that the LPF has also been criticised by Mr Balkenende for saying that there is no further money available for health and education.

New leaders

He has not yet said publicly whether he is prepared to share power with the three-month-old party, most of whose members are political novices.

Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven
The new Labour leader, Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven
Traditionally politicians do not reveal the details of the discussions.

The Queen's next step is to appoint an mediator or "informateur" to survey the political landscape and negotiate with the parties.

The Labour and Liberal parties, which suffered a major defeat in the election have both replaced their leaders.

The new leader of the Labour Party is a woman, the former speaker of the lower house of parliament, Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven.

The Liberals' new leader is former Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm.

Mr Herben of the LPF is a 49-year-old former spokesman and journalist for the Defence Ministry, with none of his predecessor's flare and flamboyance.

Graph showing Dutch election results, compared with 1998
  Click here to return

See also:

16 May 02 | Europe
Profile: Fortuyn's new champion
16 May 02 | Europe
Analysis: Dutch turn to the right
16 May 02 | Europe
Dutch press review
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