Netherlands to have most conservative ruling coalition in decades

Key policy plank of the four-party government is to halve the number of people coming to the country to work, according to a source

The Netherlands is to have its most right-wing coalition government in decades with Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party becoming the largest in a new four-party coalition — although it remains unclear for now who will replace Mark Rutte as prime minister.

After almost six months of on-again off-again talks and just weeks before the June EU elections, a deal was finally sealed on Wednesday afternoon between the Freedom Party; the centre-right VVD; the farmers’ lobby party, BBB; and the fledgling New Social Contract.

In a clear response to public opinion, since Mr Rutte’s government collapsed last July in a row over asylum policy, the key element of the new deal is a package of what is being flagged as the toughest curbs on immigration ever introduced by a Dutch government.

One source said the aim was to halve the number of people coming to the Netherlands to work — though how that would fit with the EU’s open borders remained unclear.


Mr Wilders (60) also promised to lower the age of retirement and significantly increase spending on healthcare. However, the central bank has warned that these may not be practical because of the need for spending cuts of about €17 billion.

During the coalition negotiations, Mr Wilders dropped two of his most controversial policies: his demand for a Dutch exit from the EU, known as Nexit, and his opposition to all future weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

In another radical departure from political tradition, all four party leaders — including Mr Wilders, despite his substantial win in the November general election — have opted not to compete to succeed Mr Rutte as prime minister.

As the outline of the coalition agreement finally fell into place, the parties were increasingly expected to name former Labour Party minister Ronald Plasterk (67) — a retired professor of molecular genetics who chaired the first round of the coalition negotiations — for the top job.

That did not happen, however, apparently at the last moment, for reasons that were still unclear on Wednesday evening.

With 37 seats for the Freedom Party, 24 for the VVD, 20 for Pieter Omtzigt’s NCS and seven for Caroline van der Plas and the BBB, the alliance would give the new coalition a secure majority of 88 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.

Once a deal is signed by the four leaders, it will be debated by parliament, probably next week.

It will also have to be sanctioned by each of the four parties, likely over the weekend.

With policy issues agreed the final challenge will be to put together a “technocratic” cabinet of subject-matter experts with looser ties to parliament rather than necessarily politicians with no specialist knowledge of their briefs.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court