Final municipal elections debate mainly focused on national issues

Wilders, Buma and Pechtold during the debate

In the final debate before the municipal elections, the national party leaders of all parties represented in parliament had a final chance to convince voters to vote for their party on Wednesday. While the debate was for the municipal elections, the party leaders mainly focused on national issues on Tuesday evening, reports.

The party leaders were allowed to choose which topics to debate. PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher opted to debate the abolition of dividend tax. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver also wanted to talk about this. ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers started a debate with PVV leader Geert Wilders about who is more interested in the region - both thought it was their party. Wilders' topic was that the D66 discriminates against the Dutch people and he wanted clarification from D66 leader Alexander Pechtold about an apartment Pechtold received from a befriended diplomat. Pechtold asked Wilders about the gifts the PVV receives from foreign donors. "I hope you have your finances in order."

A number of party leaders wanted to talk about integration and asylum seekers. VVD leader Mark Rutte's statement was "asylum seekers who can stay may no longer be given priority in the assignment of housing". This is remarkable, because the the VVD and PvdA already stated in 2016 that refugees should not fall in the group that is given priority - it was left up to the municipalities decide whether or not to give someone priority. 

CDA leader Sybrand Buma's statement was: "Successful integration starts with choosing for the Netherlands". SP leader Lilian Marijnissen partly agreed with this statement. According to Buma, this starts with  learning the Dutch language. But Marijnissen pointed out that it was the CDA that  privatized language education, resulting in waiting lists and the quality of education deteriorating. 

The housing market was also up for discussion. All parties agreed that more homes should be built in the coming years, but they disagree on how this should be done. The SP called for more social rental housing. The ChristenUnie agreed with this, and Segers pointed out that this is also in line with the government policy on housing construction. Marijnissen reminded Segers that it is difficult for housing corporations to build because of the landlord levy - a tax for housing corporations. Segers said that this measure was implemented by the previous government and did not want to talk about it further. 

Klaver and Pechtold also spoke out on the housing shortage. Klaver wants the middle segment - with rents between 700 and 1000 euros - to be regulated. Pechtold thinks this is going too far. He wants more homes built in the middle segment so that people can move out to social housing more easily. 

Rutte ended the evening by calling on citizens to vote on Wednesday. He did not give any advice on who to vote for, only saying to vote for the thousands of people who are candidate councilors. "They often do the council work alongside their regular job. These are our heros." Rutte said.