A Dutch anti-Islam party says it's brokered a provisional coalition deal for a hard-right government

FILE - Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right party PVV, or Party for Freedom, talks to the media, two days after winning the most votes in a general election, in The Hague, Netherlands, on Nov. 24, 2023. Anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders is on the verge of brokering a four-party coalition in the Netherlands six months after coming in first in national elections, opening the prospect that yet another European Union nation will veer toward the hard right weeks ahead of EU-wide elections. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File) (Peter Dejong, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BRUSSELS – Anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders and three other Dutch party leaders said Wednesday they have brokered a provisional coalition deal in a move that brings closer a government driven by the hard right in yet another European Union nation.

The party leaders said that they will put the text to their party backbenchers before a full government deal can be announced. The parties still have to agree on a prime minister, who is expected to be a technocrat from outside the party structures.

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With hard right and populist parties now part of or leading a half dozen governments in the 27-nation bloc, they appear positioned to make gains in the June 6-9 election for the European Parliament.

“We have a deal among negotiators and we will return to the position of prime minister at a later moment,” said Wilders. He has reluctantly acknowledged he will not succeed Mark Rutte and instead has pushed for an outsider.

The name of a prime minister was still elusive, and even though Wilders won the election, he was considered by many too risky to be the national leader.

Speculation has centered on Ronald Plasterk, from the Labor Party, who shot back to prominence this year when he became the first “scout” to hold talks with political leaders about possible coalitions.

Wilders has called Plasterk a “creative spirit” with political experience but who is also distanced enough from the current political scene.

"If you want a government to succeed, you need a prime minister that unites,” said Pieter Omtzigt, leader of the centrist New Social Contract party. Outgoing Prime Minister Rutte's center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the populist Farmer Citizen Movement are also in the coalition deal.

Wilders’ Party for Freedom won 37 seats in the 150-seat lower house of the Dutch parliament, and the four parties combined hold a comfortable majority of 88 seats.

After two decades in the 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.

From Finland to Croatia, hard-line right parties are part of European governing coalitions, and hard right or populist prime ministers are leading Hungary, Slovakia and Italy.

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