The Dutch general election: What the papers say

With one day to go, the antics of Rutte, Samsom et al are keeping Dutch newspaper columnists and foreign correspondents busy.

Eric Vrijsen, Elsevier
‘Time is running out for ‘reliable prime minister’ Mark Rutte, who has so far failed to deflate Labour leader Diederik Samsom’s clever election campaign. It’s promising to be an exciting battle between the two leaders, one that will be good for democracy. Why? More people will vote and at last we will be able to get rid of the endless talk of the Netherlands being ‘ungovernable’ because the multitude of parties are eroding the political middle ground.’

Raoul du Pré, Volkskrant
‘If you haven’t caught on to what distinguishes the candidates by now, you have been living under a stone. Apart from the political standpoints, we have all been able to see with our own eyes how the candidates perform under pressure and how they interact. Relevant information in a country such as the Netherlands where the colours of the separate manifestos will inevitably run after a cycle in the coalition washing machine.’

Jouke de Vries, Trouw
‘The most spectacular event in the election battle is the way Roemer (SP) and Samsom (Labour) have changed places. The dramatic change in voter preference is the result of two factors; namely, the disproportionate influence of the polls and the role of the media. Poll results influence the behaviour of leaders who are surrounded by an army of spin doctors and communication experts. To them, the daily polls are the fuel which keeps the ‘twitter democracy’ going.

‘Although they come with a considerable margin of error, polls represent a trend. (..) Voters, who prefer to watch Boer zoekt vrouw instead of yet another political debate, like to side with a winner and by doing so buck the trend. The media show has turned the Netherlands into a socialmediacracy, in which a large group of professionals who work in the media use the media to air their opinions and interpretations of events. They are having a disproportionate influence on the political agenda and are increasingly shaping the image of politics.’

The foreign press


The Guardian
‘Pundits predict three months of post-election wrangling over a Labour-VVD coalition that will bicker over the speed, scale and depth of the spending cuts and return the Netherlands to a broadly pro-European path, but with many more ifs and buts.’

Die Zeit
‘The worst case scenario is that Chancellor Merkel will lose another ally in her drive for austerity after Sarkozy.’

Le Monde
‘It looks as if these elections – the fifth in ten years – will confirm the fragmentation of the electorate which will make the formation of a new government that much more difficult’.

El País
‘Two key phrases mark the final stretch to the elections. The right-wing liberal Mark Rutte said it will be ‘very difficult but I do not rule out anyone. With Labour, unemployment will rise, there will be fewer roads and longer hospital waiting lists’. Diederik Samsom said he was ‘closer to radical socialism than to the right-wing liberals but the voters will soon show us how the seats will be distributed’.

‘If you look at them properly, these comments are meant to convey that although the parties don’t share the same ideals they are nevertheless prepared to work together, the Dutch version of a swing towards the political centre now the extreme right seems to be losing its hold.’

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