Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has ruled out forming a coalition government with the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.
Rutte, who leads the Netherlands’ ruling liberal party, said in an interview on Sunday that there was “zero chance” of him doing a deal with Wilders after the election in March.
He specifically took issue with Wilders’ attacks on the judiciary.
After the nationalist party leader was found guilty of inciting discrimination last month for wishing “fewer Moroccans” in the city of The Hague, he dismissed his three judges as “Freedom Party haters” and said “nobody” trusts the courts anymore.
Rutte replied that such rhetoric undermines Dutch people’s faith in their institutions and disqualifies Wilders from power.
The Freedom Party backed Rutte’s first government, from 2010 to 2012. It withdrew its support in the middle of the parliament when the other ruling parties insisted on deeper spending cuts, forcing snap elections at the very moment the Dutch economy sank into a recession.
Rutte has since repeatedly accused Wilders of putting party before country.
His center-right liberal party, wary of antagonizing Freedom Party voters, had nevertheless held the door open to future collaboration — until now.
Rutte maintained on Sunday that he wasn’t excluding Freedom Party supporters with his statement, whose problems deserve “realistic proposals, not tirades and running away” from responsibility, he said.
Wilders is bound to disagree. He claims the Dutch political establishment is united against him.
Finding a majority
Polls suggest the election could turn into a two-man race between Rutte and Wilders.
The Freedom Party is projected to become the single-largest in parliament, with north of thirty seats. But Rutte, with around 25 seats, is more likely to lead the next government, given his ability to make deals across the political spectrum.
The other parties close to the center — Christian Democrats, Labor, liberal Democrats and Greens — all hover around 15 seats in the polls. 76 are needed for a majority.