Two days before the House of Representatives elections in the Netherlands, the leaders of the most important parties held a television debate in the Ahoy in Rotterdam. Things were more civil than a few days ago, but the contradictions between right and left became clear once again. “You speak seven languages, but not the language of the people.”
The Dutch will elect their representatives in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. In front of a live audience, six party leaders were given one of the last chances to secure votes on Monday evening. Dilan Yesilgöz (VVD), Frans Timmermans (GL-PvdA), Geert Wilders (PVV), Pieter Omtzigt (NSC), Rob Jetten (D66) and Caroline van der Plas (BBB) were confronted with three themes: migration, climate and social security .
The first two themes in particular caused intense discussions. Although it remained a lot more civilized than last week’s debate on SBS6, when the leaders had a lot of difficulty getting each other to speak out. The climate debate once again made it clear how the relationships lie: Timmermans and Jetten want the Netherlands to increase its climate ambitions, while the others fear the costs that such a greener economy will entail.
Wilders (PVV) in particular strongly opposed the arguments from the left. He said this to Timmermans: “You speak seven languages, but not the language of the people. And the people just want to be able to pay for their groceries. But you are spending a lot of money, while there are bigger problems than the climate in the coming years.”
We saw a similar contradiction in the migration debate. Yesilgöz, Wilders, Omtzigt and Van der Plas want a stricter migration policy. The majority of Dutch people also seem to be in favor of this, judging by the most recent polls where only Timmermans’ party can stay close to its (center) right opponents. Yet Timmermans and Jetten continue to emphasize that the Netherlands must remain a hospitable country.
Jetten directly attacked Yesilgöz’s VVD: “We are not dealing with an asylum crisis at all, but we are dealing with a VVD crisis. Because your party, Mrs Yesilgöz, has held sway over migration policy for twelve years. And in those twelve years, criminal asylum seekers still do not return to their own country any faster and refugees are stuck in overcrowded asylum centers. And that because you showed no leadership and made no choices.”
There seemed to be consensus on one theme during the debate: housing. Each party emphasized that the country will have to make maximum efforts to boost construction after the elections. On that point, the difference does not seem to be made during Wednesday’s elections.
Tomorrow evening there will be the big final debate between the various party leaders at the NOS.