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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Wilders ally overseeing first stage of Dutch coalition-building quits over fraud allegation

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The leader of the New Social Contract (NSC) party, Pieter Omtzigt, has resigned from his role as the chief negotiator for the formation of a new Dutch government, following allegations of fraud and tax evasion. Omtzigt, who was seen as a key ally of the far-right populist Geert Wilders, announced his decision on Tuesday, saying he wanted to clear his name and protect the integrity of the coalition talks.

Omtzigt’s departure is a major blow to Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) won the most seats in the parliamentary elections on November 23, but needs the support of at least two other parties to form a majority. NSC, a centrist upstart party that came third in the polls, was widely regarded as the most likely partner for Wilders, as both parties share a critical stance on the European Union and immigration.

However, Omtzigt’s resignation could jeopardize the chances of a PVV-NSC coalition, as it opens the door for other parties to step in and try to form an alternative government. The liberal-conservative Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), led by the outgoing justice minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, has already expressed its willingness to explore other options, saying that Wilders’ anti-Islam and anti-EU agenda is incompatible with its values.

The fraud allegations against Omtzigt stem from a report by the Dutch tax authority, which claims that he failed to declare income from his consultancy work and used offshore accounts to evade taxes. Omtzigt has denied any wrongdoing and said he will cooperate with the authorities to prove his innocence. He also said he hopes to return to the coalition talks once the investigation is over.

Wilders has expressed his support for Omtzigt and said he hopes to resume the negotiations with him as soon as possible. He also accused the VVD and other parties of using the fraud scandal as an excuse to exclude him from the government. He said he will not give up on his goal of leading the Netherlands out of the EU and stopping the “Islamization” of the country.

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