The first of several scheduled debates in the run up to the March 20 provincial elections took place in front of RTL’s cameras on Thursday night and was dominated by national themes and national parliamentary party leaders.
The environment, a carbon tax for heavy industry, calls for a ban on fireworks and even Zwarte Piet came on board during the debate, which was attended by the leaders of the eight biggest parties in the national polls.
The 500 members of the 12 provincial councils will go on to elect the 75 members of the senate in May, and the current coalition is almost certain to lose its majority. This means opposition parties are using the election as an informal referendum on the cabinet.
During the debate, PVV leader Geert Wilders and the SP’s Lilian Marijnissen made it clear that they would not help the coalition to pass controversial issues in the senate on any grounds.
Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher too said he would not support the government in the senate unless it underwent ‘an enormous change in course’ and picked up issues close Labour’s heart.
The NRC points out that it was the first time three of the party leaders – D66’s Rob Jetten, FvD’s Thierry Baudet and the VVD’s Klaas Dijkhoff – had been involved in such a television format.
Jetten, the paper said, had obviously done his homework and tried to be dominant. Baudet, who first moaned that others would not let him speak, came back after the first break and refused to let Jesse Klaver get a word in edgeways, the paper said.
In its review, the Financieele Dagblad said that the well-rehearsed one-liners were interspersed with ‘sharp arguments’.
Baudet, the paper said, described the government’s plans to tackle climate change as ‘bizarre, absurd and impossible’ to which Klaver responded: ‘total nonsense, but you say it with such flair that it is almost believable.’
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