Negotiations on forming a new Dutch government have taken a hit following the resignation of the lead political negotiator.
On November 24, Geert Wilders had given the task to test the political waters and search for a coalition leadership to Gom van Strien, a PVV party Senate member.
The 72-year-old van Strien came with a sound reputation and was described by those who worked with him as knowledgeable, intelligent and relatively Conservative.
That was put in doubt after the Dutch newspaper NRC published pending accusations of fraud against him over the weekend of November 24-25.
In response, the Senator wrote on November 27: “This weekend, articles appeared in the media about work in my past questioning my integrity”.
He said the situation left him no option but to step down from the role Wilders had given him.
“Both the unrest created about this and preparing a response to it do not, in my view, relate to my current work as a political negotiator,” van Strien said, adding he would quit immediately.
Wilders called his resignation: “Not my dream start to the exploration period…This is not what you hope for.”
Wilders said he now expects to present a new negotiator on November 28.
The Utrecht University, where Van Strien used to work, filed charges against him alleging fraud and bribery earlier this year.
Documents received by NRC allege Van Strien held shares in firms linked to the university, which it is said were then moved to an outside business.
The external company’s shareholders reportedly included Van Strien’s friend, a former neighbour, and the friend’s sister.
On November 26, Van Strien had told the newspaper that when he learned about the claim, he asked the university for clarification but received no response.
“However, a letter from the university arrived with some obvious mistakes. I responded with a letter that completely refuted everything. I didn’t hear anything else after that.
“I assumed the matter was closed,” Van Strien said, adding he intended to continue his work.
A day later, he decided to step away from his negotiating responsibilities.
Van Strien has been a member of the PVV and financial spokesperson in the Dutch Senate for 12 years.
Forming a Dutch coalition was already looking difficult after the VVD party of outgoing premier Mark Rutte said it did not want to take part.