(Bloomberg) -- Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders suffered a setback in his bid to form a coalition government and become prime minister after a center-right party said it wouldn’t take seats in his cabinet.
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Pieter Omtzigt, the head of New Social Contract party, left open the possibility of supporting a minority government that rests on external votes, according to a letter published on the party website Tuesday.
Although Omtzigt’s support is crucial for Wilders to become the Netherlands’ next prime minister, the latest move doesn’t mean the talks are over or that the controversial populist can’t get the top job. Wilders still has leverage over his potential coalition partners. As negotiations drag on, latest polls indicate growing support for his far-right Freedom Party.
Wilders said he was disappointed with Omtzigt. “The Netherlands wants this cabinet and now Pieter Omtzigt is throwing in the towel while we were still in discussions until today,” he said via X on Tuesday. “I don’t understand it at all.”
The Freedom Party delivered a shock election victory on Nov. 22, picking up 37 seats — more than any polls had predicted. Omtzigt was an early front-runner but lost ground after hesitating over whether he wanted to be prime minister.
Wilders, who must forge alliances with rivals to achieve a 76-seat majority in parliament, had been negotiating for a right-wing coalition that would include the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, formerly led by outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Omtzigt’s New Social Contract and the Farmer-Citizen Movement.
While the four parties are likely to agree on a crackdown on migration, topics including aid to Ukraine, cooperation with the European Union and climate policies are seen as issues that could complicate Wilders’ prospects of leading the next Dutch government.
Earlier: Dutch Climate Goals at Risk After Success of Far-Right Party
Omtzigt raised concerns over the financial impact of Wilders’s policies and the potential constraints on the Dutch budget.
“We have different financial expectations for the coming years,” the letter said. It called Wilders’ policies “empty promises that cannot be kept during the coming cabinet period.”
Wilders’ lead negotiator Ronald Plasterk is expected to submit a report to the parliament on the progress of coalition talks by Monday.
(Updates with negotiations, in final paragraph.)
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