Far-right Geert Wilders announces new Dutch government deal

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It’s almost official. The Netherlands has swung to the right.

Unless there’s a last-minute hitch, the country’s next government will be made up of Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), two center-right groups and the populist Farmer Citizen Movement (BBB), Wilders announced Wednesday.

“We have a governing agreement, so that’s very good news,” Wilders told the press.

But notably, the Dutch still have not been informed of Wilders’ pick for prime minister, hinting at ongoing disagreement.

Wilders said discussions on a suitable PM candidate would be “picked up at a later moment.”

The coalition brokered by Wilders would include outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the centrist New Social Contract (NSC) party.

However, the announcement оf an accord between the four party leaders came later than expected Wednesday, suggesting there is still unresolved tension. And VVD leader Dilan Yeşilgöz appeared anything but triumphant as she spoke of “important first steps” which had been made and warned journalists that the seeking of internal party consensus — the next step before the deal is finalized — would likely take a “long” time.

“It could get late,” she said.

“It’s the story of this formation that every phase takes an hour longer than we thought,” was NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt’s acerbic response to a question on what was the cause of the hold-up.

The deal still needs the endorsement of all four parties’ parliamentary factions. And the choice of a new prime minister could also still throw a last-minute spanner in the works.

The announcement caps nearly six months of fraught talks between the four parties, which at one point saw the leader of the NSC walk away and whose open squabbles on social media riveted the Dutch public.

But by making some concessions, including agreeing he would not be prime minister, Wilders — the shock winner of last year’s election — appears to have finally been able to clinch a deal.

Wilders’ victory has been widely seen as a harbinger of a far-right surge in next month’s European Parliament election. His inclusion as a major force in the new government is expected to pose a challenge for officials in Brussels, given his Euroskeptic, anti-migration positions.

“If it works out then this can be considered a historic day,” Wilders told the Dutch broadcaster NOS on Wednesday morning ahead of the announcement. “Being the largest party in a Cabinet, that’s something you can only dream of as a leader of a party and it’s good for our voters.”

With the three other party leaders also choosing to remain in parliament rather than serve as ministers, much is still unknown about who will form the next Dutch Cabinet.

This story has been updated.

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