Prime minister Mark Rutte and Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet are to meet each other for a head to head debate in front of the television cameras on Wednesday evening on the eve of the European elections.
The hastily arranged debate is the result of a spate of social media challenges between the two, described by Financieele Dagblad correspondent Ria Cats as a ‘verbal display of muscle flexing’ similar to that used by legendary boxers George Foreman and Muhammad Ali before their historic fights in Zaire.
‘You and I, one against one, live on TV,’ Rutte said to pro-Nexit Baudet in one exchange.
Dutch PM Rutte to debate populist Thierry Baudet on television Wednesday. Illustrates classic Europe-wide dilemma – for 2017 gen elex he ignored Wilders and he did well. This time he’s going on the attack, but will it just give Baudet more oxygen? https://t.co/8cO8NHSXBs
— Danny Kemp (@dannyctkemp) May 20, 2019
Other political parties are furious about the debate, which will be hosted by television presenter Jeroen Pauw and broadcast during his regular evening slot. They say it reduces the European elections to a fight between just two right-wing parties – and point out neither Rutte or Baudet are candidates in the election.
Nevertheless, there are still opportunities to hear what more parties have to say ahead of Thursday’s vote.
Monday May 20
In Nieuwsuur, Christian Democrat Manfred Weber and social democrat Frans Timmermans – both of whom hope to win the European Commission presidency – will debate live on Dutch television.
Wednesday May 22
NOS Nederland Kiest will host a debate between 12 Dutch party leaders from 8.30pm to 10pm. The Baudet Rutte debate will take place after this.
Thursday May 23
The results will not be announced until Sunday, so as not to influence countries which vote later in the week, but Dutch television will host election night programmes looking at exit poll results.
Sunday May 26
The first results will be made public in an extended version of current affairs show Nieuwsuur on NPO2
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