Dutch nationalist Wilders says deal on right-wing government is very close

  • World
  • Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Dutch far-right politician and leader of the PVV party Geert Wilders reacts as he meets the press as Dutch parties' lead candidates meet for the first time after elections, in which far-right politician Geert Wilders booked major gains, to begin coalition talks in The Hague, Netherlands, November 24, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/ File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders said on Wednesday he was very close to an agreement with his prospective right-wing government partners, almost six months after his election victory.

With parties divided over migration policies and government finances, tense talks on forming the most right-wing government in recent Dutch history have dragged on for months since Wilders' upset election victory on Nov. 22.

"I can't see this fail," Wilders told reporters shortly after midnight, following 16 hours of talks during which parties said they had found agreement on government finances.

Wilders has toned down some of his radical rhetoric and has agreed not to be prime minister, but a coalition led by his populist PVV would still be a radical shift for the Netherlands, as the veteran far-right leader was consistently ruled out for government by outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the past decade.

A deal would now see the PVV team up with Rutte's centre-right VVD, centrist NSC and the farmers' protest party BBB, in a coalition with a majority of 88 seats in the 150-seat Lower House.

After Rutte announced his departure from Dutch politics last year, Wilders rode a wave of anti-immigration sentiment to his election victory, blaming a housing shortage on flows of asylum seekers.

He also drew on widespread concerns about the cost of living and the overburdened healthcare system.

No details of their government pact have been announced, but the incoming government is widely expected to impose stricter asylum migration policies.

Wilders also made promises of lavish spending on healthcare and a lowering of the retirement age, but budget constraints make it unlikely the other parties will all support these plans.

Negotiators meet again Wednesday at 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) to try to finalise the deal, and allow factions to respond to it before a deadline for talks expires at midnight.

After Tuesday's marathon session, other party leaders also said a deal was close, although NSC's Pieter Omtzigt said it was still unclear who would become Prime Minister.

Wilders is expected to reveal his candidate for the top job on Wednesday, after vowing to forego the role in March. The other three party leaders will also remain in parliament.

Omtzigt said it would still take more than a month to form a cabinet of ministers, which parties have said would consist mainly of political outsiders with looser ties to parliament.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Shri Navaratnam)

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