Prime minister and leader of the right-wing VVD Mark Rutte and Labour leader Diederik Samsom have both denied they will be forced into working with each other after Wednesday’s general election.
With one day to go before the vote, polls show the two parties are neck and neck and speculation is mounting about the form the next coalition government will take.
Polls put the VVD and PvdA on around 35 seats in the 150-seat parliament, indicating a coalition involving them both may be inevitable and prompting other party leaders to talk of an electoral pact.
‘We have not made an agreement and there are lots of other options in which we would not have to be in a cabinet with each other,’ Samsom said during a televised debate with Rutte on Monday night.
‘I know [CDA leader Sybrand] Buma and others want to create that impression but it is complete rubbish,’ Rutte said.
The two party leaders also clashed over immigration, with Rutte describing the multicultural society as a failure and Samsom saying this is not the case.
‘The multicultural society is a fact and we are working hard to make it work,’ Samsom said. ‘Over the past few years, good policies have been hit by budget cuts and all sorts of symbolic [legislation] has been introduced on, say, dual nationality and burkas. This has nothing to do with a multicultural society.’
Rutte disagreed. ‘Multiculturalism has failed,’ he said. ‘In the 1980s and 90s we were not allowed to say that immigrants topped the jobless and crime lists. We became almost disdainful of our own western norms and values and would not say what the problems were.’
Immigrants had to be prepared to fight for a place in Dutch society, he said. This means they should not be entitled to welfare benefits unless they speak Dutch and should have to pay for compulsory integration courses themselves.
‘In America they say if you come from elsewhere and can make a contribution, you can even become president,’ Rutte said. ‘But if you don’t make a contribution, you have to go.’
Meanwhile, Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam PVV, said in an interview with website nu.nl the VVD is copying his party’s policies on issues such as immigration, drugs and minimum sentencing. ‘But it won’t work, because people always go for the original,’ Wilders said.
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