Dutch Election Focuses on the Euro Crisis
September 6, 2012
Dutch concerns about the euro crisis are
dominating the election campaign and have led to a
sharp increase in socialist popularity in recent polls.
Should the German Chancellor Angela Merkel be
The warm summer weather has returned to the
small Dutch town of Boxmeer. An ice cream shop on
Steen Street provides locals with place to cool off.
The leading candidate for the Socialist Party (SP),
Emile Roemer, vigorously scoops the ice cream and
doles out a red clump of ice cream into a cone. In
the background, the bells of the chapel drone, while
dozens of photographers and cameramen snap
photos and film the event.
The Socialist Party leader laughs at the disfigured
result of his efforts. But that's no problem for
Roemer. It's the thought that counts. The powerful
politician is offering a special sweet locals will
probably have a hard time getting again: tomato ice-
cream. The tomato is the symbol of the socialist
political party. Back in the day, in the much wilder
years, Dutch Socialists enjoyed pelting their political
opponents with juicy, red tomatoes.
Former revolutionaries push for power
Since then, the SP has outgrown its"Sturm and
Drang" years. In his serious, dark suit and red mute
tie, the Socialist could pass as one of the party's
class enemies. The party's aim for the election is to
get out of the opposition, and the former
revolutionaries want to govern and their chances of
winning the parliamentary election on September 12
don't look all that bad.
More and more people continue to gather around
the red-and-white ice-cream stand, which the
Socialist Party built for campaign.
As people congregate around the ice cream stand,
the politician enjoys his home field advantage in
Boxmeer, it's where Roemer once worked as both a
school teacher and deputy mayor. He's quick to get
to his main argument of the EU's fiscal policy.
"Europe shouldn't just rely on what Brussels says,"
the 50-year told the crowd. "Too many politicians
only think in terms of laws and debt levels."
Emile Roemer, Spitzenkandiat der Sozialistischen
Partei (SP) der Niederlande verteilt bei einer
Wahlkampfveranstaltung in Boxmeer Tomateneis.
Die Tomate ist das Logo der SP und soll Symbol für
Protest sein. Das Logo geht auf die Zeit zurück, in
der sich die SP als reine Oppositionspartei verstand.
Foto: Ralf Bosen
Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer is popular
among Dutch voters. But in order to govern, he'll
have to form a coalition.
Financial crisis woes
The socialists have benefited from the euro crisis.
The SP has enjoyed a sharp increase in voter
support, as the Dutch population becomes
increasingly anxious about the handling of the euro
debt crisis in Brussels. Although SP has slipped in
recent polls after Roemer stumbled over some facts
in a talk show appearance, the number of SP voters
is still higher than expected. The party is predicted
to win more than 30 seats of the 150-seat
parliament - that's double what the party currently
Until recently, the socialists played only minor role
in Dutch politics. Critics admonished them as
"tomato Maoists" for their leftist ideals. But with the
collapse of the previous government in April this
year, the popularity of Dutch political parties has
shifted. What triggered this was the dispute within
the center-right government regarding its EU
austerity package. In order to get the budget deficit
down at below three percent, the government had to
make cuts of around 14 billion euros in public
spending. However, Geert Wilders, the leader the
right-wing populist Party for Freedom (PVV),
withdrew his support of thegovernment in protest
against the budget cuts. The Prime Minister Mark
Rutte from the right-wing People's Party for Freedom
and Democracy (VVD) resigned, prompting an
The Socialist Party has seen a sharp increase in
Roemer had stated that the Dutch government has a
responsibility not to save, but to invest and
stimulate growth in order to address rising
unemployment. Additionally, he had called for a
referendum on the EU fiscal treaty calling for
austerity measures. These comments have put him
not only in direct opposition with Brussels, but also
the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has
repeatedly indicated her preference for both greater
fiscal disciplinary power and political power being
handed from national capitals to the European
Distancing from Merkel
In an interview with DW, Roemer affirmed his ties
with Germany saying: "I have absolutely no conflict
with Germany and its people. But I do have a
conflict witha liberal economic path." When asked
whether he stood more politically aligned with the
French President Francois Hollande than with
Merkel, he replied: "Yes, a little bit, yes."
The chancellor should be alarmed that other Dutch
political parties are also referring to the euro crisis
in terms she would rather not have to confront in
EU meetings. The Dutch Social Democrats, for
example, have also seen a sharp improvement in
the polls. Their top candidate, Diederik Samson, a
41-year-old nuclear physicist, thinks it's okay to
give Greece more time to get their economy on track.
Or the right-wing populist Geert Wilders, who has
put the headscarf debate on hold, to argue for a
return to the guilder, the Netherlands' former
currency. All of this suggests the mood among the
Dutch population, regardless of which political party
wins the election, will create an atmosphere that
won't be easy for the EU or Merkel to deal with.
Campaigning until the very end
At the moment, the polls suggest a three-way battle
between the Socialist Party (SP), the Labor Party
(PvdA), and right-wing People's Party for Freedom
and Democracy (VVD). There are 21 parties to
choose from and, therefore, a variety of coalition
options depending on the election's results.
The smaller parties could play a decisive role and
that has kept their top candidates from adhering too
stringently a party line that could alienate potential
governing coalition partners. There is still time for
political wrangling ahead of the elections on
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