HomeWorldFormation of Dutch government advances as far-right Wilders admits he can’t be...

Formation of Dutch government advances as far-right Wilders admits he can’t be PM

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Dutch coalition talks will move on from exploratory discussions to more concrete negotiations aimed at forming a largely technocratic government, after the far-right leader Geert Wilders accepted he could not be prime minister.

Four months after Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom party (PVV) became the largest in parliament, Kim Putters, the former socialist senator overseeing the talks, said they would continue based on a cabinet of political veterans and outside experts.

In a keenly awaited report released on Thursday, Putters said the four parties involved – PVV, the liberal-conservative VVD, the agrarian BBB and the centre-right newcomer NSC – had agreed to pursue an “extra-parliamentary” government.

They would “strive for a good, balanced mix of ministers from inside and outside politics”, Putters said. “Based on the discussions held, I consider it wise to strive for a split of, for example, 50% of people with political ties and 50% from outside.”

The mediator said he had concluded it would not be possible to form a PVV-led coalition with a majority in parliament, or a minority government operating with parliamentary support, given the differences between the four parties.

Wilders on Wednesday reluctantly conceded he lacked the support among his prospective coalition allies to be the next prime minister. He said on Thursday that only the populist BBB leader, Caroline van der Plas, had fully backed his ambitions.

He said his forced withdrawal was unjust but the formation of a rightwing cabinet came first. “In the end, no matter how much it hurts, and how unfair I think it is, and how constitutionally wrong it is, I made the decision not to choose my own position.”

Media reports suggested that a technocratic cabinet – which would entail all four coalition leaders staying in parliament as MPs and not taking ministerial jobs – was the price that NSC, in particular, had demanded for supporting a PVV-led majority government.

Putters’ report suggested that the usually detailed coalition agreement – a more-or-less binding blueprint for government – should be shorter and less specific, since MPs would have a significantly greater say on individual policies.

The Netherlands has not had such a government since 1918 but the concept is familiar in other European countries, including Italy. It is unclear how exactly it would work in the Netherlands, although Wilders would be likely to propose the new premier.

Geert Wilders: who is the anti-Islam politician leading the largest Dutch party? – video profile

Campaigning on a populist, anti-immigration platform, the PVV won 37 seats in the November election, far more than expected but well short of a majority in the 150-seat parliament. The four would-be coalition partners have 88 MPs between them.

Wilders said on Thursday that many people who voted for the PVV expecting him to become prime minister if it emerged as the largest party were angry, “and I’m just as angry as they are”. But he said a rightwing cabinet could “achieve a lot for the Netherlands”.

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Political commentators said Wilders’ decision could prove positive for him. “As party leader in parliament, he can continue to play a freer, critical role,” said NOS’s political editor, Xander van der Wulp. “He won’t have to act in the name of the four partners.”

Parliament is expected to debate Putters’ report next week before deciding on the next step. Talks so far between the four parties have been tense, with NSC’s leader, Pieter Omtzigt, walking out in February over irreconcilable differences with Wilders.

The far-right firebrand Wilders, who has a conviction for insulting Dutch Moroccans as a group, had to drop anti-constitutional manifesto pledges including bans on mosques, the Qur’an and Islamic headscarves, as well as a “Nexit” referendum on leaving the EU, but insisted on Wednesday he would be premier one day.

“With the support of even more Dutch people – if not tomorrow, then the day after,” he said on X. “The voice of millions of Dutch people will be heard!”

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