In an effort to quell the bickering that has hampered efforts to form a new government, Dutch politicians have been urged to stop posting on the Twitter social networking site during the ongoing talks.
Ivo Opstelten, a Liberal party grandee and recent adviser to Queen Beatrix on government formation options, has asked officials to “give Twitter a break, for once” – urging an end to political squabbling on the micro-blogging platform.
The 140-characters-per-message service is wildly popular in the Netherlands, including among the political class, where even the most senior government ministers post updates on their work, life and other musings several times a day.
But the anarchic, real-time conversation generated as a result is being blamed for hampering efforts to build a coalition following inconclusive elections on June 9. It is the second time that politicians have been asked to give their “tweeting” thumbs a rest since the election, as part of a broader effort to instil a period of “radio silence” during the tortuous negotiation process.
Politicians were rebuked by the leader of the Dutch parliament earlier this year for tweeting too much during debates.
Mr Opstelten’s comments followed a critical “tweet” from a senior official in the Liberal VVD party criticising the Queen’s principal adviser on formation talks.
In contrast to other parts of the world, politicians in the Netherlands almost always write their own Twitter updates, often from their mobile phones, instantly broadcasting to tens of thousands of followers.
The tweeting curb has mostly been followed over the summer period, at least as far as commenting on the coalition-building talks.
Geert Wilders, the anti-Islamic politician whose Freedom Party (PVV) is expected to support the next government, used Twitter to announce he would travel to New York to give a speech on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
“Finally booked flight and hotel in New York. Good feeling. Important speech. Nobody will stop me now. No mosque near Ground Zero!” he told his 42,725 followers last month.
More prosaically, Jan Kees de Jager, finance minister, provided four updates on European Union ministerial discussions on financial supervision last Tuesday, and frequently replies to the 14,165 Twitter users who write to him through the service.
“It’s part of our political culture now,” says Sophie in ’t Veld, a Dutch Euro parliamentarian who has tweeted 96 times since Monday.
“I understand the need for peace and quiet during the government negotiations but at the same time it means that Dutch citizens have no idea of what is going on.”
Coalition-building talks were revived this week after Mr Wilders returned to the negotiating table following an unexpected exit last week.
He is being asked to support a coalition formed by Liberals and Christian Democrats, some of whom have expressed reservations about an alliance with the PVV.