Talks to form Dutch government start after Geert Wilders’ election win

24 November 2023, 17:04

Geert Wilders
Netherlands Election. Picture: PA

The anti-Islam Party for Freedom, known by its Dutch acronym PVV, won 37 seats in the 150-seat lower house.

A senator from the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom has been appointed to investigate possible governing coalitions after the far-right party’s election victory.

The party of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it would support a centre-right administration in parliament but not join the next government.

The Party for Freedom, or PVV, led by veteran anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, won 37 seats in the 150-seat lower house, indicating a seismic shift to the right for the Netherlands.

Mr Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy won 24 seats, 10 fewer than in the previous election, according to a near complete count of Wednesday’s votes.

After a meeting of party leaders at the parliament, PVV senator Gom van Strien was appointed to investigate possible coalitions. Newly-elected lawmakers will debate his findings on December 6.

Mr van Strien said he will begin meetings with party leaders on Monday.

Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, the new leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, tweeted that after losing 10 seats in the election, the long-time ruling party would “make possible and constructively support a centre-right Cabinet with good policies”, but would not join a government.

Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius (left) talks with Pieter Omtzigt
Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius (left) talks with Pieter Omtzigt (Peter Dejong/AP/PA)

Mr Wilders called the decision, which was announced before formal coalition talks had begun, “extremely disappointing”.

The election result and appointment of Mr Van Strien pave the way for Mr Wilders to take the lead in forming a new coalition and potentially to succeed Mr Rutte as prime minister.

However, he will likely have to convince potential coalition partners that he would tone down some of his anti-Islam policies.

His party’s election platform states that the Netherlands “is not an Islamic country. No Islamic schools, Korans and mosques”.

One potential coalition partner for Mr Wilders is the recently formed New Social Contract party, or NSC, which won 20 seats. The party’s centrist leader, Pieter Omtzigt, said he could not accept “unconstitutional” policies.

Article one of the Dutch Constitution outlaws discrimination “on grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or on any other grounds”.

In an election-night victory speech, Mr Wilders pledged not to push any policies that would breach Dutch law or the constitution.

His foreign policy also has raised concern among the Netherlands’ allies, Dutch caretaker defence minister Kajsa Ollongren said on Friday.

Mr Wilders’ election programme says “we will not send our money and defence equipment such as F-16s to Ukraine”.

“I hope and expect that the support will remain,” Ms Ollongren told reporters in The Hague. She said she had received concerned calls about the issue since the election.

The caretaker administration led by Mr Rutte will remain in office until a new coalition is formed.

By Press Association

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