Press Review Monday 26 April 2010

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This weekend several political parties held their pre-election conferences. Trouw writes that the old political centre is back with the larger parties mainly fighting each other and ignoring the smaller parties. De Volkskrant headlines “Cautious start to campaigns”, AD appears to disagree with the headline: “Fierce start to campaigns”.The difference lies in the fact that the party leaders left it to others to do any mud-slinging.

Jan Peter Balkenende played the statesman - showing films of himself in action as prime minister. Nevertheless the party is falling in the polls – after a steady lead up until the government fell last February.

Leader of the conservative VVD, Mark Rutte, made his ambition to become prime minister known. The popularity of the party is finally on the up. De Volkskrant put that down to the calm that has returned to the party following the departure of Rita Verdonk and Geert Wilders.

Meanwhile, André Rouvoet of the Christian Union and deputy prime minister pointed out that the upcoming poll is a parliamentary election and he would not be seeking a government post.

The Labour Party said goodbye to former leader Wouter Bos, who has chosen to spend more time with his family. Since former mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen took over the leadership the party has shot up into first place in the polls.

The change of leadership in the Socialist Party has not had the same effect and Emile Roemer is battling to become a household name before election day. He announced a “big clean up after the financial mess” left by the current government.

The Animal Rights Party and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party are struggling with internal troubles. At the Animal Rights Party congress, delegates put Ester Ouwehand back in second place on the election list, in spite of initially not being placed on it at all. De Telegraaf reports that Gidi Markuszower has withdrawn his name from the Freedom Party list, following revelations that he was arrested for carrying a gun in 2008. He is the second Freedom Party candidate to withdraw from the election race.

Secrets of World War II camp commander’s house unravelled Remembrance Day and Liberation Day- 4 and 5 May - are approaching in the Netherlands and stories about the Second World War are re-emerging as they often do around this time of year.

De Volkskrant reports that a house used as a residence by the commander at Camp Westerbork is being given back today to its memorial centre. Westerbork was a transition camp for the deportation of Jews during the war.

Meanwhile the house’s secrets have been saved from the dustbin as amateur historian, Stef Zwarts and his wife Jannie, managed to rescue documents, photos, drawings and diaries in shorthand in dusty boxes from the attic of the house.

While investigating the life of a member of the Dutch Nazi Movement, the NSB Hein van der Speck Obreen, the historians discovered that his brother, who opposed the Nazis, Colonel Piet van der Speck Obreen lived in the Commander’s House after the war.

His daughter Hanneke continued to live there after her father’s death. She was a recluse and became known as the “forest woman”, who chased people away from the house, adding to the mystery surrounding the premises.

When she died, the historian and his wife managed to get permission to visit the house. They found a hoard of valuable historical documents hidden in the attic. But the house had a bad vibration, perhaps due to its troubled past.

“The front left room was Camp Commander Gemmeker’s office, where the Tuesday transport lists were drawn up.” Many of the Jews from the Netherlands who died in Nazi concentration camps passed through Westerbork. Dutch bulb-growers in trouble Many of the papers sport photographs of last weekend’s flower procession in the bulb-growing region near the city of Haarlem. This year’s theme, Journey across the World attracted a million people. Eighteen floats and thirty cars decorated with millions of different coloured flowers included, amongst others, the portrayal of a trip down the Rhine and a walk in England.

However, De Telegraaf reports that all is not well in the Dutch flower industry. The financial crisis means that bulb-growing companies are suddenly worth less. As a result an amaryllis grower has received a letter from the bank that says after 24 years of blooming business, it is pulling the plug. Usually, firms in the flower industry receive financing for planting, harvesting and distribution, which they pay back in December. But this year 40 percent of businesses have been refused finance for the coming season.

Meanwhile a colourfully-dressed bulb-dealer gets his picture in De Telegraph with his one-man protest warning tourists “not to buy bulbs now” – as they just won’t grow if you put them in the ground in April, and by November they’ll be dried out.

Ajax wins Cup Final part 1 in first seven minutes The first part of the Dutch FA Cup final was decided in the first seven minutes according to AD. Amsterdam’s Ajax scored the only two goals of the match against Feyenoord in Rotterdam. Feyenoord’s coach Mario Been is keeping optimistic, but both AD and agree the Rotterdam team will need a miracle to win the second part of the final on 6 May.

The Cup Final had to be split into two matches without away fans, following internet threats to raze Rotterdam - the original location for the match - to the ground. In Amsterdam the jubilant fans caused almost no trouble for the police. But De Telegraaf reports 71 football supporters were arrested at a pub in Rotterdam for shouting anti-Semitic slogans before the game even began. The pub in question was emptied. A hundred supporters were photographed by police with their ID cards to be used to establish the identity of any troublemakers on film. Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb had announced a zero-tolerance policy. “Trouble-makers who terrorise society will not be tolerated,” he said.

AD prints a photograph of five police officers in Rotterdam arresting one man, with mounted police in the background. While in Amsterdam, police officers are pictured sitting on chairs in the sunshine outside the Arena stadium.

Teenagers literally driving their parents mad And while most fourteen-year-olds were probably watching the football, some were taking their first driving lesson on the coastal town of Zantvoort’s racing circuit.

The controversial lessons have been organised by a go-cart firm. It argues that it gives the children an insight into road traffic. But AD points out that most of the teenagers are more interested in getting behind the wheel and driving fast than listening to the theory lesson.

The teenagers are excited as they step into the driving seat. Their nervous parents have been instructed to grab the handbrake in case of an emergency and if that fails to work, to literally pull their offspring’s leg off the accelerator. Whatever the parents do, they’ve been told not to start shouting.

The Dutch traffic safety organisation is appalled by the initiative. “At this age children are not ready to drive cars.” Which is perfectly demonstrated by the teenagers themselves as they jerk and stall their vehicles in the paddock.


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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