It was often difficult to form a new government in the Netherlands. Even more after a far-right firebrand won the election and declared his intention to ban the Qur’an, deny any new refugee applications, leave the EU, and destroy mountains of environmental rules. On February 6, however, things became much more difficult when a significant prospective member withdrew from coalition negotiations. As a result, Geert Wilders’ chances of creating a majority government are now very slim, while a minority cabinet is still conceivable.

Wilders has been attempting to build a coalition with the centre-right VVD of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the centrist NSC, and the farmers protest group BBB since he won with a quarter of the vote on November 22. This would give the 150-seat Lower House a comfortable majority of 88 seats. 

However, negotiations stalled as Wilders was unable to get beyond the NSC’s and VVD’s resistance to cooperating with him. Pieter Omtzigt, the leader of the New Social Contract (NSC) party, pulled out of negotiations to establish a new Dutch government. He explained why he terminated the coalition talks: differences of opinion on how to handle the current state of public finances. Omtizgt claimed that Ronald Plasterk, appointed negotiator, had withheld documents referring to the state of finances of the Dutch Kingdom. This breach of trust has impacted the negotiations, to the way that Omtigtz declared that it is not possible to go with them further, saying that his party in this context would be unable to realise promises made in the electoral process. He did, however, reassure that his party could stay outside the government and yet back a minority ministry. The NSC ultimately ended the discussions in a report released, citing what it claimed to be Wilders’ disrespect for the law—an allegation he has refuted

The far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders won the elections in November. It only managed to get 37 seats, however, and 76 votes in the 150-seat Tweede Kamer—the States General’s lower house—are required to establish a government. In January, the leaders of the New Social Contract (NSC) by Pieter Omtzigt, the liberal VVD, the farmers’ BBB, and the Freedom Party entered coalition talks.

The far-right PVV was part of a four-party majority administration, but Omtzigt’s backing was crucial in securing support for the arrangement. Prior to this, Wilders’ party was seen as politically poisonous because of its staunch opposition to immigration and Islam. Among other things, Wilders used to promote a vote on the Netherlands’ withdrawal from the EU and said that his nation shouldn’t provide arms to Ukraine because the Netherlands needs them to be secure. Nevertheless, during his campaign his rhetoric mostly focused on anti-Islam talking points and immigration, rather than anti-EU stance of his party. Now, however, farmers revolt and dissolution of the negotiations might open up the gates for his more aggressive rhetorics, while his popularity is still rising. 

The head of departing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, said that she was “very surprised” to learn that Omtzigt had withdrawn from talks to create a coalition government.

The primary impediment to the negotiations was originally the migration question, which had previously caused difficulties for Wilders in assembling a coalition. Meanwhile, surveys summarised by POLITICO and its instrument so-called poll of polls indicate that his party is gaining momentum. It is now at 32% as opposed to 24% in November of previous year. 

Currently, the most sensible course of action would be for PVV, VVD, and BBB to attempt to form a minority administration, for which NSC chairman Pieter Omtzigt said he would take into consideration providing outside assistance. Although there have been minority administrations in the past, majority coalitions that formalise their agreements in comprehensive government pacts often rule the Netherlands. Rutte’s first administration, which ran from 2010 to 2012 with the PVV’s backing, is the most recent example.

In theory, coalitions of parties other than those present at the table might attempt to create a government. One such combination is the Green Left-Labour alliance, which finished second in the November election and is headed by former EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans. One of the former leaders of the EU, now is a leader of the Dutch Labour Party, which is seen as a third way, blarist establishment left-wing force. Hence, against Timmermans much of the votes were casted by the new supporters of Wilders and his acolytes. However, Timmermans has ruled out cooperating with the Wilders and said earlier this month that it was very improbable that his party would be involved in creating the next administration. There is no practical alternative to the one that has previously been attempted for a majority government in the absence of Timmermans’ party.

PVV, VVD, and BBB may choose to form a government with less connections to the political parties in parliament, mostly composed of outside specialists who would seek to change legislative majorities in favour of their views, if they are unable to reach an agreement on a comprehensive coalition agreement. Before the election and after he withdrew from the negotiations last week, Omtzigt had said that a technocratic administration was his first choice. However, this kind of government has never been tried before in modern Dutch history, and it may find it difficult to win over the public.

A fresh election is the final recourse if no new administration can be established. In the Netherlands, there are no rules regarding the duration of a government formation. The most current one was finished in a record-breaking 299 days in 2021. So this situation also can take some time. 

Cover photo: Geert Wilders voting. Source.

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