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At the Zero Hour, Dutch Center-Right Coalition Talks Blow Apart – HotAir


At the Zero Hour, Dutch Center-Right Coalition Talks Blow Apart – HotAir

This has to be incredibly frustrating for “far right” Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose party won a surprise quarter of the vote in the recent Dutch elections, earning him the right to form the next government.

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It also has to be infuriating for Dutch voters who chose right-wing and centrist parties to represent them as they vanquished their unpopular and seemingly entrenched government.

Far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilders’ bid to form a government appears to be stumbling just days before a key deadline, as potential coalition partners squabble over fiscal and immigration policy.

Wilders stunned the Netherlands and Europe by storming to victory in November’s election with an anti-Islam, climate-change-denying manifesto that would ban mosques and the Koran.

But unlike in Britain or the United States, where the victorious party leader automatically takes the national reins, elections in the fragmented Dutch system usher in months of haggling over a coalition government.

They’re not kidding when they say the negotiations “can take months.” Holy smokes – organizing a Dutch government after the 2021 elections took 299 days!

So I’m not sure if it’s taken that long before how this sounds the death knell for Wilders’ prime ministerial hopes. Maybe because he is so unpopular with the elites and the press in general, they’re just hoping this is the end of him.

Wilders wants to move ahead without any major new taxes or tough budget cuts, and that seems to be the sticking point for one of the rising new parties’ positions. They want to be tougher on the financial side, and so they withdrew from the negotiations.

…In a letter to his fellow party members NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt said he considered the talks to be over, as he said new information on the government’s finances had made it clear the coalition would not be able to keep the promises it intended to make.

“Financial expectations for the coming years have changed,” Omtzigt said. “Under no conditions do we want to make promises we know are empty.”

Wilders said he was “incredibly disappointed” by his prospective partner’s decision. “The country wants this coalition… I don’t understand it at all.”

Ronald Plasterk, a former Labor Party minister and the intermediary leading the talks, had already flagged finances as a key stumbling block, after economic experts had warned the new coalition would have to find around 17 billion euros ($18.3 billion) in structural spending cuts.

This move complicated already difficult talks even more, as Wilders made it clear this was not part of his agenda, by tweeting his preference for a right-wing government “with lower taxes and without painful, large spending cuts”.

There are undercurrents besides finances. Immigration is a huge issue, and Wilders has to deal with an immigrant sympathetic party to form this coalition. He has also never been one for tact, and using social media like X with abandon as whim and frenzy take him.

It is hard to make friends and influence people that way, particularly if they read a tweet about themselves.

…Officially the parties are supposed to be discussing the “rule of law” — the parts of Wilders’ manifesto seen as anti-constitutional like its anti-Islam elements but also plans for a “Nexit”, or a Dutch exit from the EU.

This is a particular stumbling block for anti-corruption champion Pieter Omtzigt and his New Social Contract party, whose support Wilders needs if he wants to form a majority.

But there are other clear bones of contention.

Wilders was livid when the VVD in the upper house Senate voted through measures to distribute immigrants in local communities — a policy he bitterly opposes.

A minority government is one possibility, but those are almost always fraught with gridlock. The other court of last resort would be to call new elections. You would doubt anyone would be in a hurry to pull that ripcord, but Wilders himself has suggested it. It seems as time moves on his party is becoming enormously popular.

Widlers might be calculating he’d gain even more control and then be able to dispense with a coalition partner or two entirely.

…But Wilders also raised eyebrows by dangling the possibility of new elections if the talks founder.

The latest polling suggests support for Wilders’ PVV is soaring, with one showing a staggering 50 seats out of 150 for the far-right party.

De Lange sees three possible outcomes from Plasterk’s report: kicking the can down the road and continuing talks, starting negotiations between a different set of parties, or a new vote.

She sees fresh elections as the least likely option, especially as parties are not keen to run two campaigns with European elections also in June.

Judging by the action on Dutch highways tonight…

…Wilders might be tapping into something that’s not going away any time soon.

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