Netherlands: Wilders waiver should enable right-wing government alliance

Wilders waiver should enable right-wing government alliance

Wilders says he is paving the way for a right-wing coalition and policies aimed at reducing immigration and asylum. photo

© Peter Dejong/AP/dpa

By resigning from the post of head of government, Geert Wilders wants to enable a right-wing government. But how the four parties in question want to govern is a mystery.

The The Netherlands is heading towards a right-wing government alliance. Almost four months after the parliamentary election, the radical right-wing election winner Geert Wilders and three other right-wing parties are ready to negotiate. After long, arduous conversations and open arguments, that alone is tantamount to a breakthrough – even if many questions still remain unanswered.

The explorator commissioned by Parliament, the Social Democrat Kim Putters, had achieved in the past few weeks that the four were able to agree on a minimum of cooperation: a loose government alliance on the basis of a narrow program. Putters presented its report in The Hague on Thursday. Who should become head of government is completely open.

The desired government would be new territory

Forming an ordinary majority and minority government with the four parties is not realistic, said the explorer. According to him, the only thing possible is a so-called program cabinet, which should also include non-party experts. He himself considered this word because there has never been a government like this in the Netherlands.

What exactly this cabinet should look like is therefore unclear. Political observers are also puzzled. So far all that has been made clear is that the parties want to agree on a narrow government program.

The November election results show how divided the Netherlands is. Wilders and his extreme right-wing anti-Islam party won surprisingly clearly in November. He won 37 of the 150 seats in parliament. But he needs at least two other parties for a majority, and hardly anyone wants to govern with him.

Farmer Citizens Movement BBB would support Wilders

Both the right-wing liberal VVD of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the new center-right party NSC had refused to enter a government under Prime Minister Wilders. Only the small right-wing populist Farmer Citizens Movement BBB as a fourth partner would be willing to do this, but it is far too small. And leading a minority government would be far too great a risk for Wilders. After all, he has no experience and no ministerial candidates.

Wilders announced on Wednesday evening that he would give up the office of head of government in order to clear the way for a radical right-wing government. Wilders referred to the lack of support from potential coalition partners. On Thursday he was angry: The fact that he would not be able to head the government as the election winner was “unfair and not constitutionally correct,” the head of the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom told reporters. He also accused two of his possible future partners of blocking him. Normally in the Netherlands the winner of the election also becomes head of government, but this is not mandatory.

Show for Wilder’s voters

But Wilder’s anger is also a show for his voters. For him, giving up his office is not such a big sacrifice. Because now the 60-year-old with the platinum blonde hair can do what he has been doing for around 20 years: criticize the government from within parliament. And he can control his faction. Because Wilders is his party, he is the only member. And his great fear is that the 37-member parliamentary group will fall apart, especially since most of the MPs are completely inexperienced.

To make the right-wing government possible, Wilders nevertheless made some concessions. For example, he withdrew proposed laws banning mosques and the Koran and stripping people of dual citizenship of their civil rights. He also appears ready to agree to further military aid for Ukraine. And yet the first round of talks between the four parties collapsed in January. Parliament then commissioned Putters to explore the possibilities of a coalition.

Exchange of blows between the right-wing parties

It is not clear whether the “program cabinet” experiment will ultimately take place as suggested by Putters. Because the chemistry between the parties is anything but good. In the past few weeks they have often exchanged blows with accusations and criticism, especially in the media.

How does it go from here? Next week, Parliament is due to debate the report and then appoint a new leader. The four parties then have to agree on the basic principles of a government program. When it comes to migration and asylum policy, this will probably be simple. Everyone wants a significant tightening. But things become problematic when it comes to the financial framework, climate protection and foreign policy. And then suitable people must be found inside and outside of politics who can and want to implement the program. And then there is still the big question about the head of government.


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