For many political conservatives was last November a great month. With the significant gains of the populist right-wing PVV and the modest loss of the right-wing VVD, the path seemed clear for the formation of a right-wing cabinet. This cabinet would focus on limiting migration and preserving Dutch culture.

Former PvdA-minister Ronald Plasterk looked ahead to the upcoming formation with the motto: not talking but acting with the PVV, VVD, BBB, and NSC, the new party of Pieter Omtzigt. Ultimately, he would lead this process himself as an informateur. However, the formation did not go as smoothly as he initially hoped.

Despite the radio-silence surrounding the formation, some insights recently leaked to journalists. Although all four involved parties can be classified as right-wing, there are indeed substantive differences. NSC, led by Pieter Omtzigt, places a significant emphasis on the rule of law and the upholding of the constitutional state, conflicting with various plans of the PVV. Even on migration, the main theme that led these parties to victory, they seem to not fully agree. NSC aims to reduce the number of labor migrants, which goes against the interests of the BBB, representing an agricultural sector heavily dependent on these labor migrants.

While the differences between the parties seem significant, they are not insurmountable. Geert Wilders’ PVV has already made some concessions by putting certain plans “on ice.”

What probably did not contribute to the progress of the formation is the fierce tone and wording that various politicians use on social media. Geert Wilders, for instance, repeatedly criticized the VVD, his negotiating partner, via his favorite platform ‘X.’ Caroline van der Plas, in turn, refused to condemn the words of FDF leader Mark van den Oever, earning her criticism from NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt.

There is little as uncertain in contemporary Dutch politics as the course of forming a coalition. This was evident one day before the submission of this article when Pieter Omtzigt decided to pull the plug on the formation prematurely. It wasn’t mudslinging or substantive objections, but letters on government finances that seemed to be the stumbling block for Omtzigt. The other leaders reacted with surprise to the NSC leader’s action, finding it strange that he closed the door.
However, it is not exceptional for a formation not to succeed in one round. While Rutte-II was quickly formed, a coalition of Purple-plus failed in 2010.
Also, a second cabinet Den Uyl never materialized, despite the fact that the PvdA was the largest party in the chamber at the time. A coalition where PvdA-leader Den Uyl were to return to his “torentje” (the workplace of the prime-minster) seemed logically when his party won the elections. However, after long and difficult negotiations, the second and third party (CDA and VVD respectively), decided to form a cabinet without the PvdA. A second cabinet-Den Uyl never materialised. The coalition negotiations in Dutch politics can unfold unpredictably.

Little can be predicted about the composition of a possible next cabinet. For now, a majority cabinet with Geert Wilders seems distant. The PVV can no longer count on the support of NSC. Despite the confidence expressed by Plasterk in his column, he failed to bring the parties closer together.

The continuation of the formation will have to wait. New negotiations or – if all else fails – elections will eventually be necessary. There are few parties waiting for that. Meanwhile, Rutte-IV continues as a caretaker government. For now, it seems that this formation will be a prolonged process. But, as D66 member Thom de Graaf said in 1998: “Better a week longer now than a year less later.”

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