Wilders May Tap Next Dutch Prime Minister as Soon as Next Week

(Bloomberg) -- Dutch election winner Geert Wilders and his partners in the Netherlands’ ongoing coalition talks are poised to decide on the country’s next leader as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.

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May 15 forms a deadline for presenting the details of the talks to parliament. If they are successful, Wilders plans to go further than merely reporting on progress and may appoint a lead negotiator who will also take up the role of prime minister, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the plans have not been made public. That person would also be in charge of forming the cabinet.

Wilders, whose far-right Freedom Party captured more votes than any rival in the election held almost six months ago, has faced a series of obstacles when trying to forge alliances to assemble the next government. In March, in order to break a deadlock in the talks, the controversial politician was forced to renounce his own bid to become prime minister. Since that’s a role convention bestows on the first-placed party leader, he slammed the outcome as “unfair.”

The most obvious candidates for the top job are men and none of them have much of an international profile, one of the people familiar with the deliberations said.

Spokespeople for the four parties declined to comment on the substance of the confidential talks.

Shortly after November’s election the Freedom Party and a clutch of right-leaning rivals — the VVD, the NSC and the Farmer-Citizen Movement — began negotiations to form a government. The long wait is far from unusual: after the last election, parties took nine months to iron out their differences.

This time, the party leaders have said they themselves don’t plan to take up positions in the next cabinet, which is expected to include a mix of political appointees as well as technocrats brought in from outside. As leader of the largest bloc in parliament Wilders will still make decisions behind the scenes, along with his three coalition partners.

On Wednesday, Wilders told reporters that the parties still need “a few more days” before reaching an agreement, but that he thinks a substantial outcome “is possible.” A few minutes later the NSC’s leader Pieter Omtzigt elaborated that “major differences of opinion” still remain.

“As far as the VVD is concerned, we are now finalizing everything and there will be a cabinet as soon as possible,” its leader Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius wrote in a Monday post on social media platform X.

Technically it’s still possible for Left alliance leader Frans Timmermans, who leads the second-largest bloc in parliament and has not been party to the coalition talks, to try to form a government if Wilders’ attempts fail. Timmermans has ruled out joining a coalition under Wilders.

Even if a prime ministerial candidate is announced the discussions between the parties are likely to continue as policy details get hammered out.

All that means that the outgoing government led by Mark Rutte could remain in place for some time, although he is expected to step down by Oct. 1 after becoming the front-runner to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as NATO chief.

In the Nov. 22 election, Wilders’ party won around a quarter of the parliamentary seats, more than any polls had predicted. The latest polls indicate that support for Wilders has only swelled since then.

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