In the general elections in the Netherlands last week the voters gave a clear signal to the politicians. The first was the Dutch want a stable government. And the second message was they want a central left government with the CDA of prime-minister Jan Peter Balkenende and the Social Democrats of the PvdA of popular Wouter Bos. These elections will have a strong impact on local communities. In the municipal of Leek, a town in the north of the Netherlands the negotiations are followed closely. PRAVDA went to Leek and talked to the local politicians about the effects this election will have.
The PvdA was the winner of the elections. It had 23 seats in parliament and won 19 seats to finish at 42 of the 150 seats. This result made the party the second biggest party, because even if the CDA gained only one seat and it still has 44 seats. Greatest loser was the Lijst Pim Fortuyn which lost 18 seats of its 26 and now has only 8. A clear signal that the voters didn’t appreciate the constant troubles in this political movement. The other parties had marginal changes, with the liberal VVD gaining 4 seats.
The sign the voters have given to the politicians is that they would like to see a coalition government with CDA and PvdA. A strong center-left government under leadership of Jan Peter Balkenende and would like to get some rest in the Hague. If the politicians will listen remains to be seen. Balkenende has a strong preference for a government with the VVD, but is slowly coming around to a coalition with Wouter Bos. If there is no bridge found for the ideological gap between CDA and PvdA other combinations will again come in the picture, but talks to form a CDA/PvdA government are under way.
The first government of Balkenende, which ruled only eight months, proposed measurements that will have a strong impact on local communities. Measurements that will have great impact on the way local developments are financed and on the way the ‘melkert’-jobs will develop. Most members of the city-council have already a long day after them if they gather in the town hall to await the results. The have worked in the polling-boots all day long. Even major Siepie de Jong has pulled her shift and registered the voters. Thanks to computer voting it is only a short time after the polling booths closed that she can announce the results in Leek. The national trends are followed with a strong result for the social-democratic PvdA.
“I hope for a government with CDA and PvdA”, alderman Ben Plandsoen from the PvdA states. ‘That combination is important for Leek. I hope it will restore some of the damage the last government has done. A government of center-left disposition will be better for education, and Leek is a town with a lot of schools in its midst, social provisions and care.” Plandsoen especially hopes that the so called ‘melkert-jobs’, jobs for people who have less chance on a regular job, will not be canceled as the last government proposed. These jobs are paid with government money and important tasks are done, like helping on schools, looking after elderly people and helping out the police. “I also hope the new government will keep the OZB in tact.” The OZB is the major income source for municipals like Leek. It is a tax on the value of houses and businesses. The former government Balkenende proposed to delete this tax and finance local city-councils from the central government. A form of finance with strict rules on how money can be spend. “With the OZB we can direct and finance developments in our own town.”
Council member Paul Tameling of green party GroenLinks also hopes that the proposed changes in the OZB get of the table. “It will be a disaster if the plans go on. As a city-council you can’t make your own policy anymore. For everything you will have to go to the central government. Things we value, like our Landgoed Nienoord, a large park where people recreate, or our sport facilities, will we get money for that? I expect we will have no more room to decided what we would like to do in our own town.” Even Johannes Havinga of the small Christian party ChristenUnie, normally on the complete other side of the political spectrum than Paul Tameling, agrees with him on the OZB tax. “I hope a new government of CDA/PvdA will be a more positive development on the OZB. I also hope that a new government will have a more positive effect on the ‘melkert’-jobs and for livability in the small towns.”
VVD alderman Harry Fellinger agrees with his fellow city-council members that the municipality of Leek should have an own source of income through taxes. But not the OZB. “That is an unreasonable tax, punishing people who take care of their houses. But there has to be a form of taxes so that the city can have its own money with which it can make its own policy.” Fellinger also hopes that some large projects will go through under a new government. “We are planning a new industrial park called Leeksterhout-Noord. I’m a little worried now. I would have felt better if the consent for it was on my desk. This last government was more positive on industrial development than the last Government under Wim Kok.”
With hopes and worries the members of the city council of Leek will follow the forming of a new government. The stakes are high, even on this small scale.
Richard Wagenaar PRAVDA.Ru Netherlands
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