Geert Wilders says it is ‘constitutionally wrong’ that he had to sacrifice his leadership ambitions


THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders said Thursday it is unfair and “constitutionally wrong” that he had to sacrifice his leadership aspirations in order to pave the way for a right-wing ruling coalition in the Netherlands after his party won the most seats in a November election.

Wilders said Wednesday night that he was giving up his bid, at least for now, to become prime minister because he did not have the full support of all three parties he is negotiating with to form a ruling coalition.

On Thursday, he sounded bitter that he likely will not become prime minister despite his elections victory, exposing simmering tensions between possible coalition partners. Historically, the leader of the largest party in parliament has become prime minister in the Netherlands.

“In the end, no matter how much it hurts and no matter how unfair I think it is and how constitutionally wrong it is, I still made the decision not to choose my own position,” Wilders told reporters. “I said in a tweet yesterday that the national interest and love for my voters and the PVV voter, our voters, is greater than my own position.”

Campaigning on a populist, anti-immigration platform, Wilders’ Party for Freedom won 37 seats in the 150-seat lower house of the Dutch parliament. The four parties in government talks hold a combined 88 seats, giving them a comfortable majority. Polls since the election show that support for Wilders’ party has continued to grow.

After two decades of trenchant opposition, Wilders seemed to have a shot at leading a nation that long prided itself on its tolerant society, but he has stepped aside in the interests of pushing through most of his agenda.

He said that many people who voted for his party expecting that he would become prime minister if his party emerged as the largest are angry “and I’m just as angry as they are.”

He said he made his choice in order to facilitate “a right-wing Cabinet that can achieve a lot for the Netherlands and your voters.”

Kim Putters, the former Labor Party senator who is overseeing coalition talks, is expected to present a report to parliament later Thursday on weeks of negotiations between Wilders’ party, the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, populist Farmer Citizen Movement and centrist New Social Contract.

Wilders said that only the Farmer Citizen Movement leader, Caroline van der Plas, gave full support to his wish to become prime minister.

Lawmakers are expected to debate his findings next week before deciding on the next step in the coalition forming process.

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