With the House of Representatives elections in the Netherlands just two days away, six party leaders faced off in a televised debate at Ahoy Rotterdam on Monday evening. The theme of migration, climate change, and social security were discussed by Dilan Yesilgöz (VVD), Frans Timmermans (GL-PvdA), Geert Wilders (PVV), Pieter Omtzigt (NSC), Rob Jetten (D66) and Caroline van der Plas (BBB).
Despite the tense debates that had taken place in previous weeks, the atmosphere during this final session was more civil. However, it soon became clear that there were still significant differences between the political parties.
The theme of migration caused particular disagreement among the leaders. While Yesilgöz, Wilders, Omtzigt and Van der Plas all called for stricter immigration policies, Timmermans and Jetten emphasized the importance of maintaining a hospitable country. In fact, Jetten directly attacked Yesilgöz’s VVD: “We are not dealing with an asylum crisis at all, but we are dealing with a VVD crisis. Because your party has held sway over migration policy for twelve years and yet criminal asylum seekers still do not return to their own country any faster and refugees are stuck in overcrowded asylum centers because you showed no leadership and made no choices.”
The climate change debate also sparked intense discussions among the leaders. While Timmermans and Jetten advocated for increased ambitions to combat climate change, others feared the costs associated with a greener economy. Wilders was particularly outspoken against arguments from the left: “You speak seven languages, but not the language of the people,” he said to Timmermans. “And the people just want to be able to pay for their groceries.”
On one point though there was consensus among all six leaders: housing. Each party agreed that maximum efforts would need to be made to boost construction after the elections. Despite this agreement however, it remains unclear which party will ultimately have a say in shaping Dutch housing policy after Wednesday’s election results are known.
Tomorrow evening will see another final debate between party leaders on NOS before they go head-to-head on Election Day tomorrow afternoon at 2pm ET/9pm CET.
Overall while things were more civil than previous debates but contradictions between right and left became clear once again especially when it comes to immigration policies where some want stricter policies while others want a more hospitable country approach