NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt has pulled out of the ongoing talks on forming a new Dutch government, saying there is no point in holding any meetings on forming a majority right-wing government.
Omtzigt’s decision was greeted with surprise by the other three parties involved in the negotiations, and lead negotiator Ronald Plasterk has described the situation as confusing. He has summoned all four parties to a meeting on Wednesday evening.
Omtzigt has also placed a letter he wrote to party members explaining the situation on social media. In the note he says he was only given access to some 20 letters from various ministries about the government finances on Tuesday afternoon.
— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) February 6, 2024
The contents of the letters were “extremely shocking”, he said, and “we have different financial expectations for the coming years”. The NSC, he said, could not make any promises to voters while knowing in advance that they could not become reality. “You do not build a secure existence on sand.”
He also accused Plasterk of not passing this information on to the negotiating team when he first received it last week. Financial experts had warned the negotiators earlier that government spending would need to be cut by €17 billion.
The talks were already said last week by the main participants to be at a “crucial” and “difficult” phase. On Tuesday, the four party leaders got together without negotiator Plasterk in an effort to clear the air after a weekend of social media sneers about the farmers’ protests and other issues.
According to NOS, the party has closed the door on forming a majority cabinet with the PVV, VVD and pro-countryside BBB but Omtzigt is still prepared to support a minority cabinet from the sidelines. He would also be prepared to support a broader alliance of parties.
His doubts about working with Geert Wilders and the far right PVV were well known, but were primarily based on concerns about the constitution and rule of law. And the leaders of the other three parties involved in the talks said they had been taken totally by surprise by Omtzigt’s decision.
“Unbelievably disappointing,” said Wilders on social media. “The Netherlands wants this cabinet and Pieter Omtzigt throws in the towel even though we were in talks today. I don’t understand it at all.”
VVD leader Dilan Yesilgöz said she hoped that the four parties could get together soon “to find out what is going on”.
Plasterk is due to present his report on the eight weeks of negotiations to parliament on Monday. He has denied keeping financial information back.
Meanwhile Frans Timmermans, leader of GroenLinks-PvdA said on social media that the problems which need solving cannot wait for the formation of a new government. “The Netherlands deserves leadership and solutions,” he said. “We need a debate to decide what happens next as quickly as possible.”
The NSC was formed by Omtzigt, a former Christian Democrat, to fight last November’s general election and won 20 seats in the 150 seat lower house of parliament.
The collapse of the talks does not mean that there will be a new general election. Instead it is likely attempts will be made to put a different coalition together, possibly a minority one.
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