Gloves off as election campaign gets going

The leaders of the three main Dutch political parties used today’s traditional parliamentary debate on the budget to kick off their election campaigns, with the vote still some eight weeks away.

Labour (PvdA) leader Wouter Bos (photo) – who is favourite to become the next prime minister – came under heavy fire from the current coalition partners, Liberals (VVD) and Christian Democrats (CDA). In particular, Labour’s plans to reduce mortgage tax relief and make wealthy pensioners continue paying state pension contributions, came under attack. ‘The primary school teacher and the nurse,’ will be the victims of Labour policy, said VVD leader Mark Rutte.
Bos in turn said that while the economy is recovering, society as a whole is not. For example, the new budget does not allocate enough money to ensure the integration of immigrants – at a time when Dutch and non-western immigrants are drifting further apart, he added. The emancipation and integration of new Dutch citizens would be ‘the biggest social question of the coming years’.
CDA leader Maxime Verhagen was quick to praise the current cabinet’s record. ‘There was a backlog of work to do when we came to power,’ he said. ‘Now the number of people claiming benefit has fallen… hospital waiting lists are shorter and the streets are safer. The Netherlands is once again a country to be proud of.’

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