Four Dutch parties today officially sealed a coalition pact after a record 209 days of negotiations, unveiling their plan to govern the Netherlands for the coming years.
The accord was approved by the parties' membership late yesterday, and following last-minute tweaks early today was finally presented to the lowlands country -- seven months after the March 15 elections.
"Today is a special moment," said speaker of the House, Khadija Arib.
"The official final report of the government agreement has been handed over to the lower house of parliament," she told reporters.
The deal sees outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte's business-friendly liberal VVD party once again take a leading role in running one of the EU's top economies.
Rutte hailed the new government's agenda, entitled "Trust in the Future", as an "ambitious and balanced" programme.
The VVD will govern in alliance with the progressive D66 as well as two Christian parties, the pragmatic CDA and the more conservative Christian Union.
The negotiations have beaten by one day the previous 208 -day record, set in 1977, for the longest coalition talks, exposing the wide differences between the four parties.
The new coalition will also only have a total of 76 MPs in the 150-seat lower house of parliament -- just a slim one- seat majority.
Analysts have already warned it could prove an uneasy and fragile marriage, even in a country used to governing by consensus.
"It was the longest negotiation in history," said mediator Gerrit Zalm, the third person to take up the task of steering the negotiations since the fractured outcome of the polls.
"It was necessary to negotiate between four parties who all have slightly different convictions and political colours," he added.
Rutte's party won 33 seats in the March 15 elections, but vowed not to work with the anti-Islam far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders which boosted its standing to come in second with 20 deputies.
Both the D66 and the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) won 19 seats, but they and the VVD needed to bring on board the more conservative CU with its five seats to win a parliamentary majority.
Rutte is expected to stay on as prime minister at the helm of his third Dutch government. But the other cabinet posts are not likely to be unveiled until about October 23, the public broadcaster NOS said.
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