Oct 22, 2023 at 10:55 p.m
In the first joint television appearance of Dilan Yesilgöz (VVD), Frans Timmermans (GL-PvdA), Pieter Omtzigt (New Social Contract) and Caroline van der Plas (BBB), sparks did not fly yet. It seemed as if the four party leaders still had to get used to their new roles and to each other.
If the campaign has not yet started for the House of Representatives elections on November 22, then the performance in College Tour on Sunday evening should have been the starting signal.
The four party leaders of VVD, New Social Contract (NSC), GL-PvdA and BBB were on stage together for the first time.
This was highly anticipated, because the parties will play an important role before and after the elections, given the trends in the polls.
There was a lot new about this setting anyway. Yesilgöz, Timmermans and Omtzigt have of course spent many hours in politics, but have little experience as leaders of their parties.
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Van der Plas, in the Chamber since March 2021, had the most experience as party leader of the group.
That also created a somewhat awkward atmosphere. For example, there was no sharp debate, although that was not necessarily the intention of College Tour. The students’ questions, as usual the most important part of the program, were now also the starting point.
Timmermans is alone in his position on nuclear energy
Occasionally the differences became clear. In the field of nuclear energy, for example. According to Timmermans, this is “not feasible and not affordable”. According to him, there are no studies at all that show that a second nuclear power plant, the Netherlands already has one, is a good investment.
Nonsense, the others protested. Those studies do exist. “I will make sure you get all those studies so that you are fully read up for the next debate,” Yesilgöz said. Moreover, a nuclear power plant is very welcome in the energy mix, Omtzigt said. “There are also days with little wind and sun.”
According to Van der Plas, Timmermans must say this to satisfy the GroenLinks supporters. The party, which will soon form a faction together with the PvdA, has traditionally been strongly against nuclear energy because of the harmful nuclear waste.
Who wants to be with whom?
Another interesting insight unfolded into what happens after the elections when parties have to form to form a coalition. Timmermans has already indicated that his party is not interested in joining forces with the VVD.
According to him, the liberals have learned too little from previous mistakes, such as a too strict fraud policy that allowed the benefits scandal to arise. Timmermans: “It would be good if the VVD could recharge its batteries.”
Omtzigt, who announced that his election manifesto will only be presented next Tuesday, wants to work with the party that, like him, wants to do something about good governance, social security, immigration and housing construction.
He remained vague about which party on stage best fits this. To which presenter Twan Huys said that he should just be able to tell that. “They do have a program.” Omtzigt still came up with an answer: “I think it is easier for me to do business with the VVD.”
Yesilgöz dodged the question. “It’s the voter’s turn first,” she said. But reiterated her precondition for any negotiations: no “watery compromises”.
Van der Plas seemed to have mentally left the conversation for a moment. When Huys asked about her political preference in a possible formation, she replied: “If there is so much bullshit in the new coalition, I don’t feel like it anymore.” That comment fit perfectly with her apolitical and non-Hague image.