Accusations, but no new insights, as right-wing clashes with left in election debate

The leaders of the VVD, PvdA, and GroenLinks got into each other’s hair about sensitive topics like poverty, housing, immigration, nitrogen, and climate during the much-discussed televised election debate led by Jeroen Pauw. Harsh accusations rained from both sides, but because the politicians mainly exchanged known points of view, most voters would not have gained many new insights.

PvdA leader Attje Kuiken immediately attacked VVD leader Mark Rutte on his first reaction to the critical parliamentary inquiry report on gas extraction in Groningen. The Prime Minister also faced criticism and accusations about the Cabinet’s approach to the nitrogen crisis, which has been dragging on for almost four years under his leadership. Rutthe has been hiding from problems for years and always blames others, said Kuiken.

Rutte, in turn, accused the left-wing parties of wanting to saddle the business community and “entirely ordinary people” with increased taxes to pay for their expensive plans for education, healthcare, and public transport. In this context, he mentioned the mortgage interest deduction, which the Cabinets under his leadership have been gradually phasing out for years, and the proposal by the left-wing parties to tax corporate profits and significant assets more heavily.

VVD leader for the Senate, Edith Schippers, initially did not want to say whether she supports the government’s goal of halving nitrogen emissions by 2030. She dismissed a question about this as “years-long whining.” But the agreements from the coalition agreement still stand, Schippers eventually acknowledged. She stressed that she did not believe in coercion but in “cooperation” and “innovations” to achieve the goal.

“Left or right” was the overarching theme of the debate. Both the VVD and the combination PvdA and GroenLinks hope to form the largest group in the Senate later this spring. However, this race doesn’t only have two parties. According to the latest polls, the farmers’ party BBB also stands a chance of becoming the largest. Broadcaster BNNVARA received a lot of criticism for not inviting other pirates to last night’s debate.

Reporting by ANP

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