Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders will learn on Monday whether he has enough support to form a government after his surprise election victory, which sent shockwaves through the country and beyond.
The “scout” appointed by Mr Wilders to shuttle party leaders, to determine who is ready to work with whom, will submit his highly anticipated report to parliament later today.
Ronald Plasterk, a former minister, spent several days in intensive talks with Mr. Wilders and other right-wing party leaders, who are reluctant to join a coalition because of the far-right leader’s extremist views.
The manifesto of his party, the PVV (Freedom Party), plans to ban mosques, headscarves and the Koran, cut off arms deliveries to Ukraine and hold a referendum on leaving the European Union.
Mr Wilders toned down most of his more extreme comments during the campaign and pledged to become prime minister “of all Dutch people” after his election victory, but doubts remain.
In the highly fragmented Dutch political system, where no party is strong enough to govern alone, elections are usually followed by months of negotiations to reach a coalition.
The process begins with the so-called “scoping” phase, during which the parties discuss the possibility of working together.
Wilders needs a coalition of 76 MPs in the 150-seat parliament to enjoy a viable governing majority. His party, the PVV, broke through by winning 37 seats, taking all observers by surprise
What would be an ideal coalition for him would bring together the agricultural party BBB (seven seats), the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte (24 seats) and the brand new pro-reform party New Contract Social (NSC, 20 seats).
Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders (l) takes a selfie during the swearing-in of the House of Representatives on December 6, 2023 in The Hague / Koen van Weel / ANP/AFP
But NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt, a champion of the fight against corruption, raised major objections to what he described as “unconstitutional” elements in Mr Wilders’ manifesto.
Mr. Omtzigt, who created his party in August and in whom many see a providential figure responsible for cleaning up Dutch politics marred by scandals, indicated that this was a “red line” for his formation.
For her part, the leader of the VVD, Dilan Yesilgoz, of Turkish origin, declared herself ready only to “support a center-right coalition” but not to be part of a cabinet led by Mr. Wilders.
Last week, Plasterk held a series of one-on-one meetings with key players, saying he had enough evidence to table his report, fueling speculation about a breakthrough.
One of the options discussed in the Dutch media is for the four parties to begin negotiations on the content of a possible coalition agreement.
If Geert Wilders can persuade other parties that he is prepared to soften his policies in many areas, this could lead to such an agreement.
But it remains to be seen whether this anti-European politician can be Prime Minister of a country which plays a leading role on the European and world stage.
“No one should be afraid of us,” he told journalists last week, during the swearing-in of the new deputies.