Wilders: Dutch parties position for tough coalition talks after Wilders’ shock poll win

AMSTERDAM: Far-right populist Geert Wilders named a “scout” on Friday to explore workable governing coalitions as he seeks to become the Netherlands’ next prime minister after booking major election gains.
In a foretaste of how difficult coalition building talks may prove after Wednesday’s election, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD Partyon Friday ruled out joining a cabinet led by Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV).However, new VVD leader Dilan Yesilgoz said her party would consider offering outside support.
Wilders, the veteran anti-EU, anti-immigration politician known for his bleach-blond hair, called Yesilgoz’s refusal to join a cabinet “very disappointing” as he sets out to build the country’s first far right-led coalition, which may prove a daunting task.
Beating predictions, Wilders’ Freedom Party won 37 seats out of 150 in the Dutch parliament, well ahead of the 25 seats secured by a joint Labour/Green ticket and 24 for the VVD in the Nov. 22 vote.
Wilders’ election win led to protests in several cities. Muslim organisations said they were worried about their treatment under a possible Wilders government, while groups including Greenpeace said they were worried he would roll back environmental policies.
Party leaders met on Friday for the first time since the vote to discuss the outcome with the chairwoman of parliament, who said the discussion had been “constructive”. Wilders named Gom van Strien, a member of his own party in the Dutch Senate, as scout.
Wilders’ Freedom Party did not win enough seats to govern alone and he will need to convince at least two more mainstream parties to join him, with VVD and New Social Contract (NSC), a centrist upstart party, seen as the most likely candidates.
But both have said Wilders would have to drop threats to leave the European Union and change clauses of the Dutch constitution forbidding religious discrimination, among other demands, for them to consider working with him.
“I dare to say this is not going to be the most easy formation we’ve ever had,” NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt said, adding there was no guarantee he would be willing to join a coalition under Wilders either.
The Dutch are no strangers to lengthy talks to build a coalition. After the last election in March 2021, that took a record-breaking 299 days.
Should Wilders’ efforts eventually fail, other parties could try to build a more centrist coalition without him. New elections are the final option if no coalition deal can be reached.
Among smaller parties, the Farmer-Citizen Movement (Boer Burger Beweging – BBB) said it would be willing to govern with Wilders. Leader Caroline van der Plas arrived for the talks in style, riding in a green tractor.
She told reporters on Thursday she expected Wilders would drop the most objectionable parts of his party’s platform in order to win support.
“Wilders has promised to be milder, now he has to show it,” she said.
The BBB’s seven seats in the lower house of parliament wouldn’t be needed for a majority there, but it holds a large number of seats in the senate, which has the power to block legislation.
Van Strien is due to report on his findings on Dec. 5, with the newly elected parliament convening to discuss the election and Van Strien’s report on Dec. 7.

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