Netherlands: Geert Wilders announces agreement to form a government of which he will not be Prime Minister

Netherlands: Geert Wilders announces agreement to form a government of which he will not be Prime Minister
Netherlands: Geert Wilders announces agreement to form a government of which he will not be Prime Minister

Time was running out to conclude. Supposed to report on the state of discussions in the Lower House this Thursday, the two informants, Richard Van Zwol and Elbert Dijkgraaf, had set a deadline of Wednesday evening for the four parties to find common ground. In the event of failure, the most likely outcome would have been the calling of new early elections.

Also, Geert Wilders, Caroline van der Plas (leader of the BBB), Pieter Omtzigt (leader and founder of the NSC) and VVD leader Dilan Yesilgoz were hard at work in The Hague to find a compromise. The four leaders left around 1 a.m. on the night of Tuesday and Wednesday after reaching an agreement on the question of finances. The last points to be resolved were during the day on Wednesday. “We have an agreement between the negotiators”announced Geert Wilders late in the afternoon.

“We must not downplay the importance of Geert Wilders’ political experience”

Who will be Prime Minister? Mystery…

One point, and not the least, remains to be decided: that of the identity of the future Prime Minister. Political tradition would have wanted it to be Geert Wilders. The PVV won 37 of the 150 seats in the Lower House – twenty more than in 2017. The alliance between the Social Democrats and the Greens – which will be the main opposition force – follows at a good distance with 25 seats. The VVD has 24, compared to 20 at the NSC and 7 at the BBB.

Known for his xenophobic and Islamophobic statements and positions, his opposition to integration into the European Union and aid to Ukraine, the populist Wilders had tried to appear approachable to his potential partners. Without, however, managing to remove their reluctance, not to say their hostility, to see him succeed the liberal Mark Rutte as minister-president of the government. Last March, the troublemaker of Dutch politics announced that he was giving up running for office. In return, none of the party leaders who negotiated the formation will join the future program cabinet, which should be made up of politicians and experts. The name of former Social Democratic minister Ronald Plasterk (who threw in the towel as the first of the five informants) is circulating. The subject, even if it has already been the subject of discussions between the four leaders, has not yet been decided. It will also be necessary to appoint a trainer, whose task will not be easy.

Geert Wilders’ decision to step down as prime minister opens the door to the formation of a government of politicians and experts

A very fragile alliance

We’re not there yet. The negotiators still had to present the content of this twenty-five page agreement, about which little is known, to their respective parliamentary factions. Approval of the compromise by the different parties will not be given overnight. “At the VVD, it’s always very long”, warned Dilan Yesilgoz. “We will first read [l’accord] carefully, talking to each other, so it might take a while.” The prospect of working with Geerts Wilders is far from unanimous in liberal ranks

Once the green light from each party has been obtained, the time will come to translate the provisional agreement into a concrete coalition agreement and the allocation of ministerial portfolios – which could be open to figures outside the new majority. The process is expected to last several more weeks.

The question will then arise of the longevity of an executive whose cohesion is not the first quality. The negotiations demonstrated how relations between party leaders are not very harmonious. The VVD and the NSC will have moved backwards in this majority. The largest party, the PVV has no experience of power, neither does the BBB. And if Geert Wilders made many concessions so that this coalition could see the light of day, the solidity of his very new sense of compromise remains to be demonstrated.

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