Classic left and right-wing leaders debate
22 November 2006, AMSTERDAM — The final pre-election debate between the leaders of the nation's six largest political parties developed into a classic battle between the left and right-wing on Wednesday.
22 November 2006
AMSTERDAM — The final pre-election debate between the leaders of the nation's six largest political parties developed into a classic battle between the left and right-wing on Wednesday.
Green-Left GroenLinks leader Femke Halsema carried out a personal attack on Christian Democrat CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
Halsema said norms and values start with telling the truth and accused Balkenende —who personally waged a morals campaign — that he had tricked the Netherlands into becoming involved in the war against Iraq and failing to take responsibility for that.
Balkenende reacted offended and said that he did not have to accept everything. He said the US-led invasion of Iraq was to blame on Saddam Hussein who had flouted UN resolutions.
Labour PvdA leader Wouter Bos also attacked Balkenende, focusing on poverty in the Netherlands. Bos said the conservative CDA leader showed "enormous passivity" towards the problem.
Bos also said Balkenende should have followed the example set by former CDA prime minister Ruud Lubbers who ensured in difficult economic periods that poverty did not increase and that income differences did not widen.
Balkenende reacted furiously: "How dare you reproach me for passivity". He said figures indicated poverty is at it lowest level since the start of the 1990s.
Socialist SP leader Jan Marijnissen rounded on Liberal VVD leader Mark Rutte, claiming it was "extremely anti-social" that the coalition government party had ensured that "100,000 children live in poverty".
Rutte replied that the SP does too little to get people off social security benefits. "You don't help those people at all. You bring economic growth only by causing damage. You pull the wool over the public's eyes," he said.
The debate was largely a conflict between the left and right-wing parties.
The left-wing opposition parties and the ChristenUnie urged for a general amnesty granting a residence permit to the asylum seekers who had entered the Netherlands before stricter immigration laws came into force in 2001.
But Balkenende rejected the demand, asking what should be done about the people who had already returned to their home nations in recent years. "That is not fair," he said.
VVD leader Rutte said a general amnesty would attract more illegal immigrants to the Netherlands, but ChristenUnie leader Andre Rouvoet urged him not to compare the group of 26,000 asylum seekers with illegal immigrants.
Prime Minister Balkenende was also criticised by the three left-wing parties over the state of healthcare in the country.
The PvdA said the "stopwatch culture" must end, while GroenLinks raised concern about the number of jobs being cut in the healthcare sector.
Balkenende said in reply that a lot of achievements had been in healthcare and dismissed claims that jobs had been cut.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Dutch news