RTL cancels ‘prime ministers debate’ after Wilders and Rutte pull out

Wilders campaigning in 2012. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Broadcaster RTL on Sunday cancelled its scheduled election debate after PVV leader Geert Wilders and prime minister Mark Rutte pulled out.

The leaders of the two biggest parties in the polls said they would not take part because RTL had asked the leaders of five rather than four parties to attend.

The event, billed as the debate between potential prime ministers, was scheduled for later this month.

On Sunday it emerged RTL had invited Jesse Klaver of GroenLinks to take part because his party is so close to the Christian Democrats and D66 in the polls.

This led Wilders to say on Twitter that RTL had ‘broken agreements’ by inviting five rather than four parties. Instead he would celebrate Carnaval, the PVV leader said.

Both Rutte and Wilders said earlier they would pull out if more than four parties were invited.

Public interest

RTL deputy editor Pieter Klein said the decision to scrap the debate is ‘a real shame’ and that he had hoped the public interest would win out. Choosing two of the three parties vying for third place in the polls would not have been reasonable, he said.

Pollster Maurice de Hond said in a reaction to the cancellation that it illustrated how difficult it will be to form a government after the March 15 general election.

Economist Mathijs Bouwman said the decision not to take part is ‘a strange way to celebrate democracy’.

The next scheduled debate will take place in the Carre theatre on March 5 between the biggest eight parties.

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