Election: campaign nears climax, parties emphasise divisions

With just two days to go before the Netherlands elects a new 150-seat lower house of parliament, and polls suggesting a two-way race for the prime minister’s job, party leaders are again out in force to get their message across.

Opinion polls show the right-wing VVD and Labour party PvdA are now neck and neck and pundits suggest a centre ‘purple’ coalition may be inevitable, leading both party leaders to emphasise the wide gap between their policies
VVD leader and prime minister Mark Rutte said in an interview with website nu.nl single mothers on welfare benefits are exactly the sort of people who should be voting for his party.
Far too many people are told by social services that they will never get a job, Rutte said. ‘Don’t let them tell you what to do. A job gives you independence, social contact and you develop your talents, the VVD leader said.
‘Election debates are about 1% more or less in welfare benefits. But you have a much better income if you get a job,’ Rutte said. ‘That is why single mums on welfare should vote VVD.’
Labour leader Diederik Samsom told a campaign meeting in Drachten on Sunday evening that two years of ‘rotten right-wing policies’ had increased divisions in Dutch society.
‘Change is in the air and that can be a reality in 72 hours,’ he is quoted as saying by the NRC. ‘The VVD and CDA stood and watched while bridges were torn down. We can rebuild that bridge together.
Rutte said on Saturday the rise of the PvdA is a danger to the future of the Netherlands.
Shift to the right
Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer tells the AD he fears there will be little left of the Labour party’s left-wing inclinations after the vote.
A number of senior party members want to adopt more right-wing policies than in recent years and the party is embroiled in an internal struggle, Roemer says.
The SP leader had an early lead on Labour in the campaign but has now been overtaken, following strong performances by Samsom in televised debates.
Meanwhile, Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration PVV, told the Telegraaf he expects his party to win 24 seats in Wednesday’s vote, well above opinion poll predictions.
And returning to familiar terrain, Wilders also launched a personal attack on Samsom.
‘He is a big Islam hugger, almost as pro-Europe as [D66 leader Alexander] Pechtold and I read that he has been arrested 10 times,’ Wilders told the paper. ‘I don’t know if that is the sort of person we want in the prime minister’s office.’
Samsom is a former campaigner for environmental organisation Greenpeace.
Christian Democrat leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma has told RTL election show Wat Kiest Nederland that he would not support a left-wing coalition involving Labour and the SP.
The Financieele Dagblad points out that Buma said in an interview with the paper that he would not rule out working with either party.
Buma told the FD he would not work again with the PVV but declined to comment on other potential coalitions.
The CDA is heading for major losses on Wednesday. After seeing its support halve to 21 in June 2010, the polls now predict the CDA will take just 13 seats this time round.
Dual nationality is still an issue

What do you consider the main issue of the campaign? Have your say using the comment box below.

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