Prime minister and VVD leader Mark Rutte came in for serious criticism at Tuesday night’s election debate for saying Greece should not get any more financial help from Europe.
‘We have given support to Greece twice, loans totalling €240bn and that is enough,’ Rutte said during the televised debate at the Carré theatre. ‘The Greeks are in a better position because of it, but I say ‘enough is enough’’.
‘I want to keep Greece with us but the dykes around Greece are high enough. Leaving the euro may become unavoidable. That is a decision for Greece.’
Rutte was attacked on all sides for his statement. Labour leader Diederik Samsom said the prime minister has made similar threats before but still sends more cash to Greece. ‘What should people think?’ he asked.
D66 leader Alexander Pechtold asked the prime minister: ‘Will you not do all you can to save the Dutch economy? What should industry think about this? What are you afraid of?’
‘Countries in trouble have to do their very best,’ Rutte replied. ‘If they don’t then they cannot count on our support. I am against a third bail-out package.’ But he refused to say if he would actually go ahead and vote against extra help.
Studio commentators said later Rutte’s tough line has been partly prompted by the rise in support for both Labour and the Socialists. He needs a strong CDA to form a new coalition government and so has to try and win votes from Geert Wilders’ anti-European PVV, Elsevier columnist Syp Wynia said.
Viewers later agreed Samsom was the winner of the debate by a narrow margin, meaning the Labour leader has won all three televised debates so far.
The audience gave Samsom 30% of the vote, Rutte took 28% and Wilders was third with 12%.
A new opinion poll by Maurice de Hond published shortly before the debate put Labour and the Socialist party neck and neck. Each party is on target to take 27 seats in the 150 seat parliament, with the VVD down one on 34, De Hond said.
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