Dutch Muslim mayor urges inclusion of Wilders in coalition talks

Negotiations have been going on for three months following fragmented poll result

Geert Wilders: “Shutting me out means sidelining the 1.3 million people who voted for the Freedom Party.” Photograph: Phil Nijhuis/AFP/Getty Images

Geert Wilders: “Shutting me out means sidelining the 1.3 million people who voted for the Freedom Party.” Photograph: Phil Nijhuis/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Muslim mayor of Rotterdam has made a surprise call for far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders to be included in talks on a new coalition government – after the negotiations, which have been going on for the past three months, collapsed for a second time.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, a former Labour minister who immigrated to the Netherlands from Morocco at the age of 15, said he believed that, given his mandate, Mr Wilders’s Freedom Party should be included in the talks, even if the other parties ultimately refused to form a government with him.

Although the election in March returned premier Mark Rutte’s Liberals as the largest party with 33 seats in the 150-seat parliament, and the Freedom Party second with 20, Mr Wilders remains excluded from the coalition talks by the other party leaders because of his intolerant views.

It looked initially as though that would not pose a problem since – on paper at least – the most numerically stable coalition would compromise the Liberals and their former partners, the Christian Democrats, along with centre-left D66 and the big beneficiaries of the election, Green Left.

However, despite the fact that between them they could command 85 seats – with just 76 needed for an overall majority – negotiations led by former health minister Edith Schippers foundered over the contentious issues of how to control immigration and where to settle refugees.

Second-best option

An attempt to salvage the negotiations by exploring the “second-best” option, comprising the Liberals, the Christian Democrats and D66 in combination with the orthodox Protestant Christian Union – which opposes same-sex marriage and euthanasia – also failed.

In the middle of last month, Ms Schippers was replaced by retired judge Hermann Willink (75), who chose to restart the negotiations from scratch in search of a majority government – rather than accepting Ms Schippers’s contention that a minority coalition now seemed most likely.

Now those talks have also hit the buffers.

Mr Rutte said he was “surprised and disappointed” that a second attempt at the Liberal-Christian Democrat-D66-GreenLeft option had failed – blaming GreenLeft leader Jesse Klaver for refusing to agree to repatriating some North African refugees.

Mr Klaver responded that repatriation was not an acceptable answer unless there were “watertight written guarantees” that the returnees’ rights would be protected.

Election

Away from the talks, Mr Aboutaleb said that “to do justice to the election outcome”, he believed that all the parties, including the Freedom Party, should now be around the negotiating table.

“The Freedom Party is part of the right wing in this country and should represent its voters alongside the other right-wing parties, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats – though that’s not to suggest that they have to govern together.”

Mr Wilders met Ms Schippers at the start of the talks, but only briefly, to learn that he wasn’t welcome.

“Shutting me out means sidelining the 1.3 million people who voted for the Freedom Party,” he said. “That shouldn’t happen, and I believe many people simply won’t understand it.”