Friday, June 5, 2009

Dutch Press Review on EU Elections

From Radio Netherlands Worldwide Daily Press Review

No prizes for guessing that the Freedom Party was the biggest winner in Thursday’s European election in the Netherlands. Nrc.next announces the result as if it were a TV show; shining yellow stars surround a blue background like a sign outside a theatre with the party’s initials PVV in big yellow letters in the middle. The inside pages feature a gold cup inscribed with a quote from party leader Geert Wilders: “We are going to get much, much bigger.”

The populist rightwing Freedom Party won four seats in the European Parliament with its clear campaign message on Europe: no. The other winners in the European election were the centre-left D66 party, whose message was equally simple: “Yes to Europe”.

The Christian Democrats were the only party to remain ahead of the anti-Islam Freedom Party. The conservative VVD managed to hold onto 3 seats in spite of predictions of a disastrous result. The big losers were surprisingly the Labour Party, who had difficulty explaining their complicated message to the electorate during the campaign. In Trouw Development Minister Bert Koenders says “‘It is not about whether you are for or against Europe, it is a about what your party wants to do in Europe.” The Socialist Party, Green Left and smaller Christian parties all held on to their two seats. The Animal Rights Party appears to have just missed gaining one seat in the European Parliament.

Elderly voters turn out in vain

AD reports that voters were well informed about the requirement to produce proof of identity in 350 municipalities. Only the elderly had problems as many of them no longer have valid identity papers. Seventy-two-year-old Maria Verbeek tore up her ballot paper when it turned out that she would not be able to vote using her over-65s pass. She questions the wisdom of the new measure, especially as so few people do actually turn out to vote, asking “Have the government gone mad?”

Many elderly people tried to vote using veteran passes, expired passports, or tattered driving licences. One woman submitted an official complaint at her local polling station.

Around 300 people in the town of Nieuwegein were unable to vote early in the morning, as the ballot boxes had not been delivered to the polling stations. A red-faced mayor apologised to voters, saying, “This just shouldn’t happen, we have done everything we can to rectify the situation.” The error was only discovered 15 minutes before polling stations were due to open.

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