Anti-Islamification populist Geert Wilders emerged the leader of the largest party and likely next Prime Minister from the November election, but Dutch coalition formation is infamously torturous and now a key party has walked away from the negotiating table.
Nieuw Sociaal Contract, (New Social Contract, NSC) a newly formed centre-right populist party focused on state reform to enhance good government, fiscal responsibility, and welfare dramatically walked away from the coalition negotiation process this week, citing fiscal concerns. The leaders of the other three political parties in talks to form the next Dutch government reacted with surprise and even dismay at the development, calling it unexpected and saying they read about it in the national news before they heard about it from the NSC themselves.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 22, 2023
The outcome of last year’s Dutch elections only left one realistic outcome to build a new government, a coalition between the first-placed party, Geert Wilders’ populist Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party For Freedom, PVV), the globalist establishment-right Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (Freedom and Democracy Party, VVD), the NSC, and the BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmer-Citizen Movement, BBB). This is the most popular outcome from the election among the voters themselves, polling shows, and this has been underlined repeatedly in the two months since, with fresh polls showing both Wilders’ own party continuing to rise in popularity after the election.
But the NSC withdrawing from talks puts this in question, as pressures on public finances and the need to cut billions of euros from the government budget leave political parties potentially unable to deliver on promises they made on the campaign trail. As said by NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt of his decision to withdraw, “You don’t build social security with castles in the air”.
The NSC’s decision to walk away from talks has been roundly criticised, not just by those who had been hoping to form with them, but from the opposition too. Geert Wilders, putative next Prime Minister called it “Incredibly disappointing… I don’t understand it at all”, while appealing on the grounds of the desire of the public — as measured through those opinion polls — to see a centre-right government cemented. Meanwhile former government partner, and now presumably on their way out, liberal-globalist D66 spokesman Rob Jetten said the country being in bad financial shape should be no reason to not form a government. He said: “Every cabinet will sooner or later face financial challenges. Look at the corona pandemic or the energy crisis. Isn’t that a reason not to form a cabinet?”.
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For the leader of the right-populist BBB Caroline Van der Plas the development is not only an unwelcome surprise, but contrary to the professed ethical and political stance of NSC. After all, she argued, how can a party that campaigns on improving the standard government then block a new government with that ambition being created. She is reported to have said that the first she heard of the NSC withdrawing was on an internet newsflash, the NSC party itself only told her personally afterwards. She told NOS: “[it is] very strange that he has left us behind. And that for someone who so desperately wants to keep the rule of law and institutions intact.”
The key question is what happens next. The Dutch green-left leader Frans Timmermans — known across Europe as a top Eurocrat who has now returned to national politics — has been frequently cited in the aftermath of this stumble, but as he himself says, there is presently no chance of the left having a chance to form a government. After all, they simply don’t have the numbers beyond a grand left-right ‘traffic light’ coalition of the type seen in Germany, but as which polls show, is not to the taste of the Dutch people.
Wilders could also attempt to form a minority government, with informal support from the NSC. He will no doubt seek to avoid this outcome as such formations are inherently unstable, and can collapse over small disagreements between parties. The PVV was involved in a minority government as a junior partner in 2010, and the collapse of that caused them some reputational harm, and Wilders may be keen not to revisit that as Prime Minister.
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Also a possibility, especially if talks truly break down, is fresh elections. This is where the latest polling comes in, given it shows how far ahead Geert Wilders’ PVV has continued to pull ahead, going from the 37 seats he won at the November election to a projected 50 seats in the new Peil poll. Whatever the cause of solidifying public support behind right-wing populist Wilders is, this polling would likely put other parties off supporting a fresh vote, knowing this could further strengthen a politician that until recently the Dutch establishment treated as a political undesirable not to be engaged with.
Dutch broadcaster NOS calls fresh elections the “nuclear option”.
Perhaps the most likely outcome now is the NSC returns to the negotiating table, having made their point they expect certain concessions on fiscal issues if they will continue to support government foundation. This may be what the NSC’s own members want, after all, with a report stating half of the party’s own members saying walking away was wrong. Cited is Hans van der Burg, who said it was good to give consideration to “financial corpses in the closet”, but nevertheless urged the NSC leadership to “get over it and stay at the table”.
Whatever happens, the talks at two months are still considerably short of the longest ever, with the 2022 government taking a record 299 days, with several false starts, to be agreed.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 16, 2023