The leaders of the four parties holding talks to form the next Dutch government have picked their most experienced advisors to support them through the next phase of negotiations.
Ronald Plasterk, the former home affairs minister chairing the formation process, said the talks would now enter a period of “radio silence” that could last until February.
The four parties chosen to try to form a right-wing coalition – PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB – will first discuss constitutional issues, after Geert Wilders’s manifesto pledges to ban the Koran, close Islamic schools and hold a referendum on leaving the European Union were criticised by the other party leaders.
Wilders will be accompanied this week by Fleur Agema, one of the nine “original” PVV MPs elected in 2006, who is the party’s spokeswoman on healthcare.
She was also Wilders’s co-negotiator during the talks on an emergency budget cuts package in 2012, which led to the downfall of Mark Rutte’s first cabinet when Wilders refused to sign off the deal.
Dilan Yesilgöz, leader of the VVD, is seconded by Sophie Hermans, who sat beside Rutte during the 10 months of talks to form the previous government in 2021. Yesilgöz is expected to bring in the party’s financial spokesman Eelco Heinen later in the talks.
NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt will be joined by Eddy van Hijum, who wrote the party’s election manifesto and was previously an administrator in Omtzigt’s home province of Overijssel.
Caroline van der Plas, leader of the farmers’ party BBB, has picked the former junior health minister Mona Keijzer as her deputy, though campaign manager and financial specialist Henk Vermeer is also expected to play a role in the talks.
Plasterk said the parties would need to establish a “collective basis for guaranteeing the constitution, constitutional rights and the democratic rule of law” before they started discussing issues such as migration, housing and the cost of living.
He also said the parties would need to “look each other deep in the eyes” on the issues before deciding what shape a new cabinet would take.
The former Labour (PvdA) minister was nominated by Wilders, who called him a “creative spirit”, to oversee the process despite their parties’ differences, after becoming a columnist for the popular Telegraaf newspaper since leaving office.
He successfully managed to persuade NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt to overcome his reservations about the PVV’s impact on the constitution and join the other parties at the negotiating table.
However, both NSC and VVD are currently unwilling to join Wilders’s party in cabinet, preferring to support a minority government either through a confidence and supply deal or by appointing non-partisan “expert” ministers.