Dutch Right-Wing Parties Reach Preliminary Deal to Form a Government

Dutch Right-Wing Parties Reach Preliminary Deal to Form a Government

Four right-wing parties in the Netherlands said on Wednesday that they had reached a preliminary agreement to form a government that would exclude Geert Wilders, a populist politician, from becoming prime minister.

The agreement came after nearly six months of negotiations, and the leaders of the four parties now have to take it to their party’s members in the House of Representatives, who could still suggest amendments. But the chances of forming a government were high, and the parties’ leaders expressed optimism.

“This won’t go wrong,” Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the Farmer Citizen Movement, a populist pro-farmer party, told reporters on Wednesday. In response, Mr. Wilders posted two prayer hands and a sun emoji on the social media platform X.

The agreement would still largely depend on Mr. Wilders’s party, Party for Freedom, which won elections decisively last fall, sending shock waves through the Dutch political system.

Since November, Mr. Wilders and his Party for Freedom had been negotiating to form a government with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, a center-right party that had governed the country for the past 13 years; New Social Contract, a centrist party; and the Farmer Citizen Movement.

Together, the four hold 88 seats in the House of Representatives, a comfortable majority. In March, Mr. Wilders announced he would not become prime minister after the four parties could not agree on a way to work together under Mr. Wilders’s leadership.

Instead, he said, he would keep his seat in the House as the leader of his party. The leaders of the other three parties agreed to do the same, preventing any of them from taking the country’s highest office.

If the agreement is approved, the four parties will work together in a slightly different form than what the Netherlands is used to: with a cabinet that includes political outsiders and a prime minister who is not the leader of one of the governing parties.

Choosing this construction, rather than a traditional majority coalition like the one under which Prime Minister Mark Rutte has governed the country for nearly a decade and a half, aims to create more distance between the cabinet and Parliament.

But Mr. Wilders’s party will still have a lot of influence, said Simon Otjes, an assistant professor of Dutch politics at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“It will be a cabinet on which a radical right-wing party will make a big mark,” Mr. Otjes said. “That won’t be taken away because Wilders won’t be prime minister.”

Much of the precise content of the preliminary coalition agreement remains unknown. It will most likely include a strict migration policy, the key issue on which Mr. Wilders campaigned.

A big question is who will be the next prime minister. Mr. Wilders and other negotiators have not made any public statements about it.

“We spoke about the prime minister today, as well,” Mr. Wilders told Dutch reporters on Wednesday. “And we will continue that conversation at a later time.”

Mr. Wilders is also the longest-sitting member of the House. That position could give him more weight in the public debate, Mr. Otjes said, and bolster his party’s already strong position in the House.

Mr. Wilders’s party easily became the biggest one after the Dutch elections in November. The victory by the Party for Freedom, which has advocated banning the Quran, closing Islamic schools and halting the acceptance of asylum seekers, was a clear rebuke to the country’s political establishment.

But since the election, Mr. Wilders has stepped away from some of his most extreme proposals.

And to ensure that he would adhere to the Constitution, the four parties took the unusual step of signing a document committing them to upholding it — something that had long been taken for granted.

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