Labour leader shows teeth for the first time in last election debate

Posters for the Netherlands' parliamentary elections, March 2017
Posters for the Netherlands' parliamentary elections, March 2017Photo: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

Thirteen party leaders clashed on Tuesday night in the final election debate on NOS, the last chance for the party leaders to sway voters before the election. Topics ranged from income inequality to Dutch identity. And after an entire election campaign of being calm and being nice, PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher went on the attack, reports.

Asscher clashed with PVV leader Geert Wilders on the topic of Dutch identity. According to Asscher, Wilders is divisive. "The Netherlands is for all of us", Asscher said. Wilders disagreed. "The Netherlands is not for all of us. The Netherlands is for the Dutch", he said. According to Wilders, the PvdA is the reason why Dutch feel like second class citizens. He referred to protests at the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam over the weekend. "If the Turks in Rotterdam had been waving Dutch flags, the the Netherlands would be for all of us."

The PvdA leader pointed out to Wilders that Rotterdam's Moroccan-Dutch mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb was the one to restore calm in the city. He accused Wilders of not accepting any responsibility. "Ten thousand angry tweets, but no solutions", Asscher said.

Asscher also clashed with SP leader Emile Roemer. The two men verbally attacked each other on the PvdA's governing and on the SP evading responsibility. Asscher compared the SP to football analyst Johan Derksen. "Sometimes funny, often grumpy, but always from the sidelines. According to the PvdA, the SP did not achieve anything for its voters due to this uncompromising attitude. According to the PvdA leader, "difficult steps were taken", but top incomes were addressed, the economy is growing again and more jobs are created.

According to Roemer, the PvdA did indeed take responsibility, "but it was the wrong responsibility. Over the past years healthcare was broken down. 10 billion euros in cutbacks, 70 thousand jobs disappeared."

GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver and CDA leader Sybrand Buma clashed on the differences between rich and poor. According to Klaver, under the CDA the "bankers" will have ten times more advantage than the "concierge". "You let down people with the lowest income", Klaver said. He added that he would happily work with the CDA in a cabinet, but only if Buma is willing to do something about the division between rich and poor. 

The CDA feels nothing for Klaver's criticism. "If left parties talk about income differences, then you know the middle incomes are going to pay." Buma said. According to him, Klaver's accusations that the CDA will increase income disparities are "rubbish and nonsense". Though he would not say exactly what his problem is with Klaver's analysis. "I'm not going to have a figure discussion. I don't find the figures, but the people behind the figures important," he said. Klaver shot back: "You run away from the facts."

A debate between VVD leader Mark Rutte and ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers had a much friendlier tone. The current Prime Minister thanked the ChristenUnie for supporting the government in some measures. Segers complimented Rutte oon his performance over the past four years, but said that he now misses leadership when it comes to climate issues. The VVD election campaign has too few measures to make sure that the Netherlands can live up to the Paris Climate Agreement, Segers said. Rutte agrees that more must be done to combat global warming, but he does not want to put the burden of an energy transition on ordinary citizens. He wants to make international agreements that bind all countries so that not only Dutch citizens pay the bill.