Press Review Tuesday 27 April 2010

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A Queen’s Day refuse collectors’ strike threatens to leave the nation’s cities knee-deep in litter – for a couple of hours at least; in his usual style, Geert Wilders’ party is the last to set out its election manifesto, and the Animal Rights Party’s authoritarian leadership is shrouded in mystery.

Strike brings threat of ‘rubbish chaos’ The Dutch papers are full of rubbish this morning or, at least, full of reports on the rubbish that will soon be filling the streets of Amsterdam. The country’s refuse collectors and street sweepers are planning a strike on 30 April, Queen’s Day.

It’s the country’s biggest national holiday and also something of a street party in many towns and cities. In many, such as the capital Amsterdam, it seems like half the population sets out a stall on the pavement to try and sell the junk from their attic to the other half. And what isn’t sold is left in the street, along with a sea of broken plastic beer glasses.

“Threat of rubbish chaos in the cities,” screams the front page of AD. “Clear up the rubbish yourself,” is the headline in de Telegraaf, quoting a plea to the public from Amsterdam’s deputy mayor. “Amsterdam could turn into a huge rubbish dump,” the populist paper warns, commenting “Fortunately there is the right to strike in the Netherlands, but in our country there’s also a tradition that it should be used appropriately. It’s not decent to strike on Queen’s Day”.

However, a refuse collector reported in de Volkskrant points out that the union has agreed to limit the Queen’s Day strike to 24 hours, instead of striking for a whole week afterwards, as originally planned. He thinks the proposed strike is pointless. “Most of us start clearing up around nine in the evening after Queen’s Day. Now it’s going to be three hours later, at twelve o’clock.” So much for chaos. By the time the partygoers eventually wake up the next morning, the streets should be neatly swept as usual.”

Wilders ‘blusters as usual’ at manifesto launch In the run-up to the June general elections all the parties have now presented their election manifestos. Bringing up the rear is right-wing populist Geert Wilders. Mr Wilders used his launch party in Rotterdam on Monday evening to lay into his biggest opponent, Labour Party leader Job Cohen. "He is a spineless man who did little for Amsterdam's original inhabitants when he was mayor of the city. Cohen is 100 percent pro Islam," Mr Wilders is quoted in de Volkskrant.

“Wilders blustered as usual about the themes his party has set as its spearheads,” comments AD. The Rotterdam-based daily points out that the Freedom Party chose the port city for its manifesto launch because of its symbolic value.

The paper reminds us that murdered anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn began his career in Rotterdam. "We'll plant our flag here and begin reconquering the Netherlands,” said Mr Wilders. “Unlike Job Cohen, we want more law and order and less immigration."

Despite his non-stop attacks on left-wing politicians, Mr Wilders is getting unexpected support from the left. Both de Telegraaf and de Volkskrant quote Femke Halsema of the Green Left party, who is accusing public broadcasters VARA the social-democrat broadcaster and NPS officially neutral of airing "a scare-mongering pamphlet" about the Freedom Party.

Sunday evening's edition of the Zembla programme – a co-production by the two organisations - presented a roundup of Geert Wilders' fieriest statements on Islam and deportation. Ms Halsema said on Twitter, "This confirms prejudices people have about public broadcasters".

Geert Wilders wants to impose sharp cuts on the publicly-funded networks. Not mincing his words, he tells de Telegraaf, "The ‘state broadcaster’ compared us to the Nazis and Milosevic. The programme was disgustingly biased. We should send the makers to Nova Zembla once we get them off the subsidy drip-feed."

Animal Rights Party members right an authoritarian wrong Amsterdam-based evening daily Het Parool reports that Animal Rights Party MP Esther Ouwehand will be standing for election after all. She had been mysteriously crossed off the party’s list of candidates, but has now been reinstated on the insistence of the party’s members.

But why she was missed off the list in the first place remains a mystery – party leader Marianne Thieme hasn’t commented, and the party congress is held strictly in private. But it’s no secret that Ms Ouwehand has clashed with the party leader over the party’s culture of secrecy and lack of democracy.

“The party that stands up for the rights of animals has a somewhat authoritarian leadership,” de Volkskrant comments. Marianne Thieme is not only party leader but also party chairperson. And she rules the party along with her right-hand man Niko Koffeman, both of whom are members of the Seventh Day Adventist church, the paper points out. Esther Ouwehand was apparently insisting on democratisation, which in the Animal Rights Party, de Volkskrant observes, “is tantamount to political suicide”.

‘Divorce tsunami’ De Volkskrant has good news and bad news to report on the housing market. On the one hand, after a period of steadily falling house prices, the market appears to be stabilising. But this has brought with it a “tsunami of divorces”.

Unhappy couples have apparently been putting up with each other until the chances of selling up at a decent price improved. And now divorce lawyers report that business is booming. “Normally we see a peak around Christmas and New Year,” says a representative of one law firm, but now “it seems like the floodgates have opened”.

Another lawyer says he also sees a relationship between the soaring number of divorces and the rise of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and the Dutch networking site Hyves. “I keep hearing remarks along the lines of, ‘he’s on the internet all day and he’s picked up some bit on the side there’.”  

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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