Three of the main parties contesting the March 15 general election held conferences this weekend to finalise their manifestos and set out their approach to the campaign.
The right-wing Liberal VVD, part of the current coalition government and currently in second place to Geert Wilders’ PVV, came under heavy fire across the board.
At the CDA conference in Barneveld, Sybrand Buma said on Saturday that he held prime minister Mark Rutte responsible for the ‘moral crisis’ that he sees in the Netherlands.
‘Rutte acts as though there is nothing wrong. That moral crisis has deepened in the last four years and the person who has allowed that to happen has failed in his most important task as prime minister,’ Buma said.
Less than forty kilometres away, in Utrecht, PvdA chairman Hans Spekman described the VVD election manifesto as ‘a disaster plan for three-quarters of the Netherlands’. He attacked the flexibilisation of the labour force that the right-wing Liberals favour.
‘The prime minister is crushing people’s certainties like an elephant. I hope people realise that when they say “but Rutte is such a nice man”,’ Spekman said.
In Tilburg, the Socialist Party went further. Party leader Emile Roemer said at the party’s conference: ‘The SP will not join a government with the VVD.’ He said he would refuse to work with a party that feels that there is ‘no alternative for more market and less government’.
Trouw pointed out that this is a remarkable and risky strategy by the SP, which has been collaborating successfully with the VVD at local and provincial level in various places. But different rules apply for the socialists in parliament, the paper said.
‘If the progressives in the Netherlands want to remove Rutte from the Torentje (his office at the Binnenhof in The Hague), we must be honest and clear in advance,’ Roemer told his audience.
Roemer is hoping that left-wing voters who are not interested in a third Rutte government will vote for his party on March 15. On Saturday he said: ‘If PvdA and GroenLinks hold open the door for the right, they will have a credibility problem. The voters will then know where they have to turn with their left-wing vote’.
The party’ leaders in question, Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA) and Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks), would not go further than saying it was ‘unlikely’ that they would govern with VVD. In an interview with Trouw on Saturday Asscher said: ‘I do not exclude the VVD. That would be bizarre in the context of relations in the Netherlands. But it is not a logical choice’.
Labour and the VVD form the current coalition government.