The World Today for November 22, 2023


New Beginning


In a surprise announcement in July, after 13 years in office, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he would retire from politics, after disputes with his leftist allies in government over migration to the Netherlands caused the government to collapse, triggering an election for Nov. 22.

As Le Monde reported, Rutte proposed limiting asylum rights in the country. Migrants fleeing war, he proposed, could only bring their families with them if they had the financial resources to support them. Only 200 people a month could be exempted from the rule.

But Rutte faced other problems, including rising costs of living and an affordable housing crisis, that have made “bestaanszekerheid,” a Dutch term meaning “livelihood security,” the leitmotif of the election season, according to EUobserver.

Now a sense of a new beginning has set in, with voters going to the polls to decide whether Rutte’s liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, his former allies on the left, or his rivals on the right will lead the country, wrote the BBC.

If they cast ballots for the People’s Party, their prime minister will likely become Dilan Yesilgöz, the daughter of Turkish refugees who would become the Netherlands’ first female premier. She has vowed to crack down on immigration. Many Dutch communities feel as if asylum seekers, foreign laborers, and foreign students are flooding their neighborhoods, testing the traditionally tolerant country, Voice of America added.

If they vote out the People’s Party, Pieter Omtzigt, the leader of the new centrist New Social Contract political party, which Omtzigt established in August, is a favorite to become prime minister. An economist, the Financial Times noted, he has promised to curb corruption – he helped expose a scandal where the government withheld child benefits from 20,000 families – and pursue reforms to improve good governance.

Frans Timmermans, a former climate chief in the European Union and the leader of the Labour and Green Left alliance, is running third, Politico reported. Timmermans wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change by 65 percent through 2030, or more than half as much as the EU’s current target. He also has proposed hiking the minimum wage and hiking taxes on high earners. Around 70,000 people marched in Amsterdam 10 days before the vote to express their support for Timmermans’ climate agenda.

In fourth place is right-wing Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom, who are calling for a ban on mosques and using the Koran in schools, and abolishing Islamic schools.

It’s a matter of how the Dutch balance their desire and antipathy to change.

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