Four parties hold rescue talks as mood sours over farm protests

NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt is reported to have doubts about forming a coalition. Photo:

The four parties trying to form a new Dutch government are holding a second day of informal meetings as they battle to meet next week’s deadline to deliver a progress report to parliament.

Sources told the Telegraaf on Monday that the leaders had met at the ministry of justice – where VVD leader Dilan Yesilgöz has her office – to discuss growing tensions between the parties.

In an unusual move, Ronald Plasterk, the former Labour party (PvdA) leader appointed by parliament to chair the negotiations, was not invited to the meeting. Plasterk has said he will report on the progress of the talks by February 12 so that MPs can hold a debate before the spring recess begins next Friday.

His absence from the two days of meetings means there will be no formal minutes of the discussions, which follow a series of spiky exchanges between the leaders on social media.

Pieter Omtzigt, leader of Nieuw Sociaal Contract (NSC), criticised famers’ party leader Caroline van der Plas for not condemning a video posted by Mark van den Oever, leader of the militant farmers’ group Farmers Defence Force.

“Tough words”

Van den Oever said agriculture minister Piet Adema and NSC’s spokesman Harm Holman would be “the focus of our attention” during anti-EU protests by farmers at the weekend. The message was filmed against a backdrop of blazing tyres and pallets.

Asked on political talk show Op1 if the video was intimidating, Van der Plas replied: “I don’t see much of a threat in it. They’re tough words, but farmers have been on the end of tough actions. We should be talking about how we solve the farmers’ problems.”

That triggered a curt response from Omtzigt, who said: “Veiled threats are not OK.” in a post on social media site X. Yesilgöz also posted an implicit criticism when she said it was wrong to “hide behind selective outrage.”

The Telegraaf reported on Tuesday that the other three parties – VVD, BBB and Geert Wilders’s PVV party – believed Omtzigt was retreating from the idea of a right-wing cabinet.

Omtzigt concerns resurface

Omtzigt expressed his serious reservations about the PVV’s attitude to constitutional rights in a letter to Plasterk after the election on November 22. Plasterk said the four parties would have to settle their differences on the constitution before tackling the substantial issues.

After Monday’s talks Wilders posted a message on X in which he urged the parties to reach an agreement “because it’s the best thing for the Netherlands”.

Photo: X

“The voters have spoken. And they want different policies. I think the parties who are negotiating now need to make a real effort to unite,” he wrote.

Yesilgöz and Van der Plas both reposted the message with endorsements, but there was no response from Omtzigt.

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