Dutch govt talks in chaos as Wilders-appointed 'scout' quits

Dutch govt talks in chaos as Wilders-appointed 'scout' quits

All eyes are on Yesilgoz and Wilders.
All eyes are on Yesilgoz and Wilders.

THE HAGUE: Already difficult talks to form a government coalition in the Netherlands after Geert Wilders's shock election win were thrown into disarray Monday as the man tasked with overseeing them resigned.

Leaders in Europe and around the world are closely watching to see if Wilders and his PVV Freedom Party can form a government with partners wary of his strident anti-Islam, anti-immigrant and anti-EU views.

But there was immediate chaos as the "scout" Wilders appointed to shuttle between party leaders to clinch a deal stepped down after media reports surfaced over alleged fraud at a past company.

The "unrest" surrounding the reports and the time required to respond properly "do not go well together with my work as the scout," said Gom van Strien, a PVV senator.

"I have therefore told Geert Wilders and the chairwoman of the parliament that I have resigned my position as scout with immediate effect," said van Strien.

Van Strien was supposed to begin the formal task of forming a coalition later Monday, meeting the top party leaders, starting with Wilders himself.

The meetings were later scrapped.

The NRC daily had reported on Sunday that a former employer of van Strien, Utrecht Holdings, had filed a police report about fraud allegedly carried out by the senator and other colleagues.

Van Strien denounced the allegations as "unfounded" and said he had "complied with all laws and regulations", vowing initially to soldier on, but the pressure apparently became too great.

- 'Genie out of bottle' -

The scandal is an immediate setback for Wilders, who stunned the Netherlands and the rest of the world by comfortably winning Wednesday's election with 37 seats in the 150-seat chamber.

The far-right firebrand was in bullish mood in the run-up to Monday's now scrapped talks, stressing he would seek to be premier and warning others not to play political games.

Wilders wrote on X, formerly Twitter, over the weekend: "Today, tomorrow or the day after, the PVV will help to govern the Netherlands and I will be prime minister of this beautiful country."

He reiterated his willingness to be "positive and reasonable" and moderate his more extreme views.

The PVV manifesto calls for a ban on mosques, Korans, and headscarves, plus a referendum on leaving the European Union.

But he also issued a warning that his surprise election win could not be ignored: "Some politicians still don't understand it. The political box of tricks is being opened again."

With some warning that another election could be possible if Wilders cannot form a coalition, he said the PVV would only be stronger if "the democratic mandate of millions of people" were ignored.

"The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back," he said.

His preferred coalition is with the BBB farmers party (seven seats), the pro-reform NSC party of Pieter Omtzigt (20 seats) and the party currently in power, the centre-right VVD (24 seats).

VVD leader Dilan Yesilgoz has already ruled out serving in a cabinet under Wilders, but has indicated she would be willing to "support a centre-right coalition".

Yesilgoz, who lost 10 seats compared to the last election fought by VVD Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has come under pressure even from inside her own party for this stance.

Wilders has said that the talks could be wrapped up in three weeks if everyone was prepared to make compromises, but the scout's shock resignation will likely push the calendar further back.

Most analysts do not expect a government to be formed until well into next year. Bringing together the current Rutte government took 271 days.

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