In the interest of government stability, the left-of-centre parties must not gang up against the minority coalition of the conservative VVD and the Christian Democrats (CDA), which has parliamentary support from Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV). This was the message from the VVD’s Loek Hermans and Christian Democrat Elco Brinkman during last night’s provincial election debate.
Without a majority in parliament, Hermans warned, it would be very difficult for the coalition to pass fundamental changes in legislation. Brinkman spoke to Christian Democrats directly, saying the government’s future relied on their votes.
Democrat (D66) party leader Roger van Boxtel, however, questioned their arguments saying, “it’s weird for the VVD and CDA to say ‘help us gain a majority, otherwise things will go wrong’”.
The Labour Party’s Marleen Barth went a step further, suggesting the parties were turning the traditional role of the Senate from a check-and-balance system into a platform for party politics.
The results of the provincial elections are indirectly linked to the government’s future. On 2 March, Dutch voters will elect 12 members of the Provincial Councils who will in turn elect the members of the Senate. Because they are not directly elected by the people, senators are more removed from day-to-day politics and traditionally act primarily to accept or reject legislation put forward by the government – including budget cuts.
During the debate, the Socialist Party, Labour Party and D66 spoke most loudly against cutbacks, particularly in healthcare and education.
“We are ready to give a clear signal: there can be no compromise on education”, said Van Boxtel. Loek Hermans responded by saying the cuts are necessary to get public finances in order.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide