The outcome of the recent Dutch election on November 22nd was nothing short of surprising, as it catapulted the right-wing populist PVV (Party for Freedom), led by Geert Wilders, to the forefront of the political spectrum. While the prospect of forming a government with the PVV and three other, less extreme parties might seem straightforward, the reality is far more intricate. Ronald Plasterk, a former Labour minister who has undergone a political shift towards the right, was appointed as the “verkenner” by the PVV after their initial candidate withdrew due to a corruption scandal. What initially seemed like a simple task has turned into a complex puzzle.
Geert Wilders’ ideal coalition partner is the VVD (Liberal Conservartives), despite his extensive criticism of them during their 13-year rule. Dilan Yesilgoz, the new leader of the VVD, has made it clear that her party won’t partake in the cabinet; they intend to take a step back, especially after losing ten seats. Nonetheless, Yesilgoz remains open to the idea of supporting a right-wing government through a confidence-and-supply agreement. Meanwhile, the BBB (populist Farmer–Citizen Movement) shows more enthusiasm for a potential collaboration.
Yet, a significant roadblock looms. The NSC (New Social Contract), a recently established political entity led by Pieter Omtzigt, a former Christian Democrat known for his unwavering commitment to the rule of law, has categorically ruled out forming a coalition with the PVV. Omtzigt argues that the PVV’s proposals, including the banning of mosques, infringe upon the constitution. While Wilders has promised to set aside these proposals, Omtzigt demands nothing short of their complete removal from the PVV’s agenda, along with firm commitments to EU membership, treaty adherence, support for Ukraine, and concrete actions on climate change.
Even if Wilders manages to meet Omtzigt’s stringent criteria, the challenge of forming a minority government without the VVD remains. Such a government would require ministers from the relatively untested PVV, NSC, and BBB, which might struggle to identify qualified candidates, as underscored by a recent corruption scandal. In the Netherlands, parliamentarians must relinquish their parliamentary roles to assume ministerial positions, a hurdle the PVV can ill afford, given its limited pool of experienced prospects. Additionally, a government without the VVD would lack a majority in the Senate, opening the door for potential legislative hurdles.
Despite Geert Wilders and the PVV’s electoral victory, leftist protests have been relatively subdued, primarily due to the uncertainty surrounding coalition negotiations. Some on the left find merit in the PVV’s economic agenda, which vaguely promises increased housing and more affordable healthcare. Nevertheless, some believe it’s crucial not to underestimate the potential risks posed by populists who challenge the rule of law, as exemplified in countries like Hungary and Poland.
Dilan Yesilgoz’s firm stance on refraining from government participation could also be a maneuver during negotiations. She may be hoping that Wilders will fervently seek her party’s involvement. Another plausible scenario could see another party nominating the prime minister while all four coalition partners pursue a more robust stance on immigration. Geert Wilders’ aspiration to lead the Netherlands towards its most right-wing government ever remains a possibility but is definitely not a done deal, given the significant adjustments required to his party’s agenda.