Dutch poll seeks to fill vacuum left by Lubbers: Immigration and the welfare state loom large in Tuesday's elections, writes Sarah Lambert in The Hague - Europe - World - The Independent

Dutch poll seeks to fill vacuum left by Lubbers: Immigration and the welfare state loom large in Tuesday's elections, writes Sarah Lambert in The Hague

THE NETHERLANDS is preparing to end an era. The Prime Minister of 12 years, Ruud Lubbers, is stepping down, leaving a political vacuum that the contenders for power in Tuesday's national elections are struggling to fill.

Polls suggest that, for the first time since 1945, the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDA) may not muster enough votes to form part of the ruling coalition. For the Dutch this possibility opens up a range of uncertainties. The voters are depressed by the politicians' message that the cradle-to-grave welfare state has to be dismantled, and are beginning to blame their problems on immigration. The tolerant liberalism on which the post-war political consensus was founded faces a dangerous threat from the extreme right.

In Rotterdam, the extreme-right Central Democrats (CD) doubled their electoral score in the March municipal elections and took 14 per cent of the vote - a phenomenon reproduced in The Hague (12 per cent), Amsterdam (10 per cent) and Utrecht (10.2 per cent).

When politicians from the ruling coalition took to the stump in Rotterdam they were barracked. 'They were badly shaken by the experience and that they should have had that reaction demonstrates how far removed from the electorate they have become,' one voter said.

The CD's leader, Hans Janmaat, is notoriously uncharismatic, which many believe has limited his support. It is hoped the protest vote registered at local level will not be mirrored in national elections. In the far north, where there are few immigrants, one local municipality returned Communists to the local council.

Yet immigration is now the election issue. Even Mr Lubbers has declared that 'immigrants cannot merely expect to be looked after, they are going to have to go out and look for work'. His chosen successor, Elco Brinkman, has courted criticism with the suggestion that social integration would be helped by 'bussing' immigrant children into schools.

Mr Brinkman, 46, will have to fight hard to inherit Mr Lubbers's mantle. Once welfare, culture and health minister, he is now party manager - a low -profile job. He has been waiting in the wings so long that the novelty of his nomination has worn off. He is tough on the need to maintain economic austerity. This has dictated the unpopular freeze on social security and pension payments.

The electorate is wary. The party's Catholic grandees mistrust his Protestantism and fear he may prove too liberal. In the Netherlands, where the art of political consensus and compromise is so refined that personality counts for much, Mr Brinkman's greatest handicap is that he is not Mr Lubbers, still the man most people would like to see prime minister. The Lubbers factor is worth an estimated 10 parliamentary seats and Mr Brinkman will have trouble holding on to them.

Suggestions that the country faces an identity crisis as it deals with the recession and the changing role of Germany, its closest neighbour and main trading partner, provoke scorn. But the huge fall-off in support for traditional parties reflects a profound sense of national insecurity.

(Graphic omitted)

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

History Teacher

£110 - £160 per day + Mileage & Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Required i...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Nursery Nurse jobs in South Glouc...

English Teacher needed for long term cover

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay TBA: Randstad Education Reading...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special needs assistants Jobs i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week