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Wilders vote win confirmed, coalition talks tricky

By AFP - Dec 02,2023 - Last updated at Dec 02,2023

Dutch Electoral Council attends the announcement of the official results of the House of Representatives elections in The Hague, on Saturday (AFP photo)

THE HAGUE — Geert Wilders’ stunning election win was confirmed officially on Saturday, but the far-right Dutch leader faces an uphill battle to forge a coalition with other parties uncomfortable with his anti-Islam views.

The election committee said Wilders and his PVV Freedom Party had won 37 seats in the 150-seat parliament, an unexpected surge for the far-right that sent shockwaves through Europe and beyond.

All eyes are now on whether Wilders can build a governing coalition and become the country’s first far-right prime minister — and the initial skirmishes suggest he has a scrap on his hands.

In the highly fragmented Dutch political system, where no party is strong enough to govern alone, elections are followed by months of horse-trading to agree a coalition.

Wilders wants a four-way coalition with the centre-right VVD — the current ruling party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte — the pro-reform New Social Contract, and the BBB farmers party.

He needs 76 seats for a stable coalition and the State Council confirmed that the four parties combined would handily achieve that.

The BBB farmers party, which sprang out of protests against plans to cut nitrogen emissions to win upper house elections in March, appears to be on board, bringing its seven seats.

But Wilders cannot form a majority without the VVD and the NSC of anti-corruption champion Pieter Omtzigt, and both have for the moment declined to enter into negotiations.

 

‘Come to the table’ 

 

The VVD, led by charismatic Turkey-born Dilan Yesilgoz, had a disastrous election night, winning a mere 24 seats — a drop from 34 previously.

Yesilgoz stated firmly that her party would not join a Wilders-led coalition, arguing that voters had clearly indicated that the VVD should no longer be governing.

However, she wants to “support” a centre-right coalition, raising the possibility of voting with Wilders to pass legislation the VVD agrees with.

Omtzigt was seen as a more natural partner for Wilders, but he too delivered a crushing blow as talks began, saying he feared PVV manifesto pledges contravened the constitution.

The party wants to stop weapons deliveries to Ukraine and says the Dutch should stop “being scared” of climate change, as the low-lying country has “the best water engineers in the world”.

Wilders softened much of his more extreme language during the campaign, focusing on cost-of-living and reducing immigration — a policy shared by all parties on the right.

But Omtzigt said the PVV manifesto “contains views which in our judgement go against the constitution... here we draw a hard line.”

“All in all, the NSC faction does not now see any basis to start talks with the PVV about a majority or a minority government,” he said in a letter to the “scout” charged with conducting talks.

A furious Wilders accused Omtzigt of playing “little political games” and urged him to open formal coalition talks.

“If you have questions, Pieter, come to the table. Then I’ll try to answer you nicely,” said Wilders on X, formerly Twitter.

 

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