Dutch PM: coalition with Wilders 'not going to happen'
By Peter Teffer
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has ruled out participating in a government with far-right leader Geert Wilders, making it less likely that Wilders becomes prime minister after elections on 15 March.
“That is not going to happen,” Rutte told the weekly political TV programme Buitenhof on Sunday (15 January)
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He said the chance that his Liberal VVD party would enter a coalition with Wilders's anti-EU PVV party was “zero”.
It was his strongest statement ruling out a coalition with Wilders to date.
Wilders is unlikely to become prime minister unless his party gets an absolute majority. They are projected to get between 33 to 36 seats, far short of the 76 seats needed.
Since the introduction of proportional representation in the Netherlands in 1918, no single party has ever acquired an absolute majority.
That has become even less likely in the past two decades, which have seen an increased fragmentation in the Dutch political spectrum.
The 2012 Lower House elections gave seats to 11 parties, but after breakaways there are currently 17 different groups – many of them now are vying to be elected on their own merits.
There have also been a number of new political parties that emerged after the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine treaty
A total of 82 parties have registered with the electoral council, although in practice usually only half of the registered parties follow through.
The Electoral Council was recently asked to design a new ballot paper to fit more than 32 parties.
Current opinion polls suggest any prospective coalition might need four or five parties to make up a majority.
Most other major political leaders have excluded working with Wilders, because his views are so far from their own. Only the populist 50Plus party for the elderly has left the door open.
On Tuesday (17 January), its leader Henk Krol wrote in an opinion piece explaining why his party would not rule out Wilders before the elections.
Excluding Wilders "will only motivate" his voters and lead to more votes. "50Plus does not want to help [Wilders party] gain more votes," Krol wrote in de Volkskrant newspaper.
It is possible that Rutte could stand down as party leader after the election, opening the door to a coalition involving his party and the PVV.
This is what Wilders would want.
The far-right MP said on Sunday that Rutte's statement excluding his party was “an offence to millions of voters and smells of dictatorship”.
However, Wilders himself made a similar statement one year ago, when he said his party would only cooperate with the Liberals if Rutte stepped down as party leader.
The two politicians previously worked together in 2010, when Wilders' party supported Rutte's centre-right minority government. However, that relationship soured after Wilders pulled the plug on that informal coalition when he did not want to support the proposed budget.