Expatica news

Amsterdam protest: ‘biggest in 10 years’

1 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — More than 200,000 people could assemble in Amsterdam on Saturday to protest against the Cabinet’s budget cuts, double the initial estimate, a survey indicated on Friday.

Survey boss Maurice de Hond said the demonstration could be the largest protest in the Netherlands in 10 years. But he also said poor weather could reduce the number of participants.

A spokeswoman for trade union confederation FNV said she believed that more and more people were realising what the cabinet’s plans mean. But she also said a Museumplein filled with 100,000 people would be “fantastic”.

Unions are angry about the budget’s stringent budget cuts, particularly in social security, early retirement and healthcare. Union strikes in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have attracted mass support.

But the government has indicated that it will stand firm, claiming that the cuts are necessary for long term economic strength.

Despite this, a Maurice de Hond survey found two weeks ago that 10 percent of 750 respondents would join Saturday’s protest. That number has since increased to 13 percent.

The growth in support is found among supporters of opposition parties Labour PvdA, Socialist Party and green-left GroenLinks plus trade union members, Dutch public news service NOS reported.

Of the government coalition supporters, the previous survey found 18 percent of the questioned Christian Democrat CDA voters and 21 percent of Liberal VVD backers wanted to join the protest. But that has declined to 14 percent and 9 percent respectively.

The voters appear to be satisfied by the EUR 1.1 billion in reduced budget cuts devised by the CDA, VVD and Democrat D66 coalition factions. The cabinet — which unveiled EUR 2.5 billion in budget cuts last week — has reacted positively to the alternative budget put forward by the government MPs.

Two weeks ago, 60 percent of Dutch nationals had difficulties with the cabinet’s economising plans and that percentage remains the same. But 56 percent of people are dissatisfied with the government’s planned abolition of the fiscally attractive early retirement schemes.

Despite the growing resistance to the cabinet’s plans, some 58 percent of people believe the budget cuts are necessary, compared with 51 percent two weeks ago, newspaper De Telegraaf reported. But the respondents believe that social services should not suffer strong cuts.

Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus is prepared to re-enter talks with unions after the Saturday protest, billed as the climax of the union movement’s campaign.

For the FNV spokeswoman, the best outcome would be for the cabinet to apologise and promise to adapt the budget. She said that would really indicate that the Amsterdam protest had succeeded.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news