Wilders vote win confirmed, coalition talks tricky

Wilders vote win confirmed, coalition talks tricky

No-one seems to want to govern with Wilders
No-one seems to want to govern with Wilders

THE HAGUE - Geert Wilders' stunning election win was confirmed officially on Friday but the far-right Dutch leader faces an uphill battle to forge a coalition with other parties uncomfortable with his anti-Islam views.

The election committee said Wilders and his PVV Freedom Party had won 37 seats in the 150-seat parliament, an unexpected surge for the far-right that sent shockwaves through Europe and beyond.

All eyes are now on whether Wilders can build a governing coalition and become the country's first far-right prime minister -- and the initial skirmishes suggest he has a scrap on his hands.

In the highly fragmented Dutch political system, where no party is strong enough to govern alone, elections are followed by months of horse-trading to agree a coalition.

Wilders wants a four-way coalition with the centre-right VVD -- the current ruling party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte -- the pro-reform New Social Contract, and the BBB farmers party.

He needs 76 seats for a stable coalition and the State Council confirmed that the four parties combined would handily achieve that.

The BBB farmers party, which sprang out of protests against plans to cut nitrogen emissions to win upper house elections in March, appears to be on board, bringing its seven seats.

But Wilders cannot form a majority without the VVD and the NSC of anti-corruption champion Pieter Omtzigt, and both have for the moment declined to enter into negotiations.

Most experts expect the process to last well into next year. It took 271 days to form the last Rutte coalition.

A sign that things are likely to drag on came later on Friday when the "scout" appointed to oversee the process said he needed more time to discuss with the party leaders.

Ronald Plasterk said in a letter to the speaker of parliament that his initial report on the talks, scheduled for December 5, would now only be ready the week after.

- 'Come to the table' -

The VVD, led by charismatic Turkish-born Dilan Yesilgoz, had a disastrous election night, winning a mere 24 seats -- a drop from 34 previously.

Yesilgoz stated firmly that her party would not join a Wilders-led coalition, arguing that voters had clearly indicated that the VVD should no longer be governing.

However, she wants to "support" a centre-right coalition, raising the possibility of voting with Wilders to pass legislation with which the VVD agrees.

Omtzigt was seen as a more natural partner for Wilders but he too delivered a crushing blow as talks began, saying he feared PVV manifesto pledges contravened the Dutch constitution.

The PVV election programme calls for a ban on mosques, the Koran and headscarves. It also urges a referendum on a "Nexit" -- the idea of the Netherlands leaving the European Union.

The party also wants to stop weapons deliveries to Ukraine and says the Dutch should stop "being scared" of climate change, as the low-lying country has "the best water engineers in the world".

Wilders softened much of his more extreme language during the election campaign, focusing on the cost of living and reducing immigration -- a policy shared by all parties on the right.

But Omtzigt said the PVV manifesto "contains views which in our judgement go against the constitution".

"Here we draw a hard line," he said;

"All in all, the NSC faction does not now see any basis to start talks with the PVV about a majority or a minority government," he said in a letter to the "scout" charged with conducting talks.

A furious Wilders accused Omtzigt of playing "little political games" and urged him to open formal coalition talks.

"If you have questions, Pieter, come to the table. Then I'll try to answer you nicely," said Wilders on X, formerly Twitter.

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