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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dutch Reject Ruling Coalition

THE HAGUE -- The Netherlands on Wednesday began searching for a viable coalition government after voters completely redrew the political map in a general election. The tortuous nature of Dutch consensus politics means it could be months before a new administration takes shape, a factor which prompted bond and share prices to drift down Wednesday morning. In the intervening period, the ruling center-left coalition will continue to administer the country, but cannot pass new legislation. Both parties of the outgoing coalition -- Labor and the Christian Democrats -- lost heavily in Tuesday's vote, though they remain the two biggest parties in parliament. But Labor edged ahead of the Christian Democrats, becoming the single biggest party and making their leader, Finance Minister Wim Kok, favorite to head the next government. The Christian Democrats suffered their worst ever general election result and could be forced into opposition for the first time since universal suffrage was introduced in 1917. But the conservative Liberal party and left-leaning D66 were triumphant after making big gains and finishing respectively as the third and fourth biggest blocs in parliament. Two parties representing the elderly make their debut in parliament, with one of them emerging as the largest of eight small parties elected to the 150-seat parliament. The extreme right-wing Central Democrats increased their share of the vote. Dutch newspapers described the erosion of support for the two big parties as a revolution but said there were no simple conclusions to be drawn. "Voters turn parliament on its head" was how Trouw summed it up in a front-page headline. "Landslide!" was the even blunter reaction of the mass-circulation Telegraaf. The 12 parties elected to parliament held their first meetings to discuss post-election strategy Wednesday. Queen Beatrix has begun consulting political leaders and senior advisers and is ultimately expected to ask Labor leader Kok to try to assemble a new government. But the delicate balance of power following Tuesday's poll is seen making coalition negotiations -- which usually last several months -- even more difficult than usual. After 12 years of stable government under two-party coalitions, a grouping of three or more parties is now needed to command a majority in parliament.Two possible coalitions are regarded as most likely -- Labor plus Christian Democrats plus D66, or Labor plus Liberals plus D66. Polls show more voters support the first option but both of these groupings face potential obstacles.