The formation of the next Dutch government is hanging by a thread after Pieter Omtzigt withdrew his party from the coalition talks, claiming crucial financial documents had been withheld from the negotiators.
Omtzigt said he was “very shocked” to learn about the “real financial setbacks and risks” described in a stack of around 20 dispatches from government ministries to Ronald Plasterk, the former home affairs minister who is leading the talks.
The NSC leader said on TV talk show Humberto that the talks had not collapsed, but stated bluntly: “This round has ended.”
He said his party was still willing to support a “broader coalition” in parliament but would not join a cabinet with the other three right-wing parties: Geert Wilders’s PVV, the liberal VVD and the farmers’ party BBB.
Plasterk and the other three party leaders were surprised by Omtzigt’s decision, claiming that talks had been constructive up until Tuesday afternoon, when the NSC leader broke away to consult his team of MPs on whether to continue.
“Unbelievable and disappointing,” Wilders posted on X. “The Netherlands wants this cabinet and now Pieter Omtzigt is throwing in the towel.”
VVD leader Dilan Yesilgöz said she was “very surprised” and called for the parties to get back around the table, while BBB leader Caroline van der Plas called it a “total surprise”.
Plasterk also said he was surprised by the development and called Omtzigt’s explanation for pulling out of the talks a “muddled tale”.
He called on the parties to continue the negotiations on Wednesday, but Omtzigt declined the invitation and said he would wait for Plasterk to send his report to parliament, which is due by next Monday. MPs will debate his findings later in the week.
In a letter to his party’s 20 MPs, Omtzigt criticised Plasterk for not sharing the ministries’ reports about their finances, which he claimed had been submitted two weeks ago, even though the public finances have been one of the main topics of discussion.
He said the reports set out “different financial expectations” for the next few years. “NSC does not want to make promises to the Dutch people when they know in advance that these empty promises cannot be realised in the next cabinet term,” Omtzigt wrote.
Rob Jetten, leader of outgoing coalition party D66, also challenged Omtzigt’s statements about the public finances. “If you walk away from the coalition talks when things get a bit difficult, it raises the question of how capable you are of taking responsibility in the next few years,” he said on talk show Op1.
Jetten’s predecessor, Sigrid Kaag, was finance minister in the previous cabinet before leaving to head the UN’s humanitarian and reconstruction team in Gaza. The post is currently held by D66 minister Steven van Weyenberg.
Plasterk will now have to decide whether to hold a second round of talks with the three remaining parties to form a minority cabinet, invite another party – most likely the left-wing alliance GroenLinks-PvdA – to try to form a government, or conclude the talks have broken down, which would trigger new elections.
The last option is seen as unlikely because the last election was just 11 weeks ago and previous attempts to form a government have taken several rounds. The previous coalition of VVD, D66, Christian Democrats (CDA) and ChristenUnie first came together in 2017 after GroenLinks pulled out of the negotiations.
However, Dilan Yesilgöz has all but ruled out forming a cabinet with GL-PvdA, arguing that voters expressed a wish for a right-wing government in November. Immediately after the election she said the VVD would not go into cabinet with the PVV but was prepared to support it through a confidence and supply deal.
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