Rutte and Wilders clash over responsibility in election debate
Mark Rutte (VVD) and Geert Wilders (PVV), the leaders of the two largest parties in the polls, clashed in an election debate on Op1 on Thursday. Accusations flying in both directions basically boiled down to taking responsibility and keeping promises, NRC reports.
Rutte attacked Wilders on the fact that he never apologized for saying he would "arrange" to have "fewer Moroccans" in the Netherlands - a statement that got the him convicted for hate speech. Wilders responded that he has enough "backbone" to not take his words back.
Rutte retorted that this was illustrative for Wilders, who "never apologizes" and walks away instead of taking responsibility. With that, Rutte referred to 2012, when the PVV withdrew from a cabinet with the VVD and CDA after a difference of opinion about budget cuts. According to Rutte, Wilders ran away over "a few percent" of purchasing power. According to Wilders, he abandoned the cabinet because of cutbacks in healthcare.
The Prime Minister also cited Wilders' cancellation of an election debate at Nieuwsuur this week. The PVV leader said he needed time to prepare for the debate with Rutte. But the VVD leader pointed out that the Op1 debate was recorded before the Nieuwsuur one was set to happen. And yet Wilders managed to make this debate. "You are doing it again. You are running away from a tough broadcast," Rutte said.
In turn, Wilders repeatedly called Rutte "a prime minister of abroad", referring to support packages for other EU Member States to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic. According to Wilders, Rutte did not give his own country priority in the coroanvirus crisis, pointing out past budget cuts in healthcare. He also repeatedly said that Rutte does not keep his promises.
The two politicians profiled themselves in the roles they also like to take in parliament. Wilders as the challenger to the power who stands up "for the real Dutch". And Rutte as the administrator who also has to make the tough decisions. As a result, the debate regularly turned harsh with the men trying to provoke each other, according to the newspaper.