SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 16 June 2024, Sunday |

Dutch PM candidates include Turkish immigrant, ‘radical centrist’, EU veteran

Three main parties are competing to nominate the next prime minister when Dutch voters head to the polls on November 22 to select a new government in a legislative election.

The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by former prime minister Mark Rutte, the recently established “New Social Contract” (NSC) Party, and the Labour and Green Left (PvdA/GL) parties operating on a single ticket are leading in opinion polls.

DILAN YESILGOZ, LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE VVD PARTY

Turkish-born Yesilgoz, 46, narrowly ahead in recent polls, has a shot at becoming the Netherlands’ first woman prime minister.

In the election campaign, she has distanced herself from Rutte, who led the party for more than a decade.

She is campaigning to limit migration and says her own experience of fleeing to the Netherlands as an eight-year-old with her Turkish Kurdish human rights activist parents informs her views.

Yesilgoz told Reuters that when she arrived in the 1980s it was possible to get housing in a predominantly Dutch neighbourhood, learn the language and contribute to society. Now, there are too many asylum seekers, not enough housing and little integration, which is unfair to both Dutch society and refugees, she said.

Yesilgoz, who now serves as Justice Minister, is often characterized as more media savvy than a policy expert. She is a self-confessed workaholic and told journalists she only does three things besides work: sleep, exercise and try to eat healthy.

PIETER OMTZIGT, LEADER OF THE CENTRE-RIGHT NSC PARTY

One of the Netherlands’ longest serving parliamentarians Pieter Omtzigt, 49, long seen as a policy wonk reinvented himself as the political conscience of the country.

After breaking with the Christian Democrats in 2021 he founded his own NSC party and is neck and neck with the VVD in the latest polls.

As a parliamentarian, he earned a reputation as a “political pit bull” with his tenacity and in-depth knowledge of complex political questions, coupled with a willingness to challenge ministers of his own party.

Omtzigt gained prominence in 2019 when he played a key role in pursuing a scandal in which thousands of families had been wrongfully accused of child care benefit fraud on the basis of their ethnicity. One of Rutte’s cabinets collapsed as a result.

During the campaign Omtzigt positioned himself as a centrist: conservative on immigration and climate change but leftist on reducing poverty and improving healthcare. His party’s top goal, though, is reforming lawmaking and policy.

At a time of low public trust his supporters see him as a politician of rare integrity.

He has endeared himself to the public with his distinct regional accent and the fact that he commutes over two hours each way by train to his home in Enschede, close to the German border, instead of moving closer to parliament in The Hague.

FRANS TIMMERMANS, LEADER OF THE COMBINED LABOUR AND GREEN LEFT TICKET

Known for overseeing the E.U.’s Green Deal as European Commission Vice President, Timmermans, 62, returned to Dutch politics in August with the ambition of becoming prime minister.

Labour/Green Left is currently third in the polls. The native of the southern Dutch province of Limburg has spent nearly a decade in Brussels as vice president of the European Commission.

With his experience, Timmermans has positioned himself as the elder statesman and a viable left-wing alternative to the current government.

He has made climate change, one of the key concerns of voters on the Dutch left, the central point of his campaign, along with attempts to win back support of blue-collar workers for Labour.

A son of a diplomat, Timmermans speaks English, German, French, Italian and Russian in addition to Dutch. He started his political career in the Dutch Labour party in the 1990s and served as foreign minister between 2012 and 2014.

    Source:
  • Reuters