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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Sport, dogs and pensioners: Welcome to Dutch politics

THE HAGUE: Dutch voters will have a bewildering array of choice when they enter polling stations for a crunch general election on November 22.
No fewer than 26 parties will be on the ballot in most regions — a totally different prospect from the United States, France or Britain for example, where voters select from only a handful of options.
Polls suggest the centre-right VVD, the upstart NSC or the left-wing Green-Social Democrat coalition is likely to come out on top.But here’s the AFP guide through the alphabet soup ofDutch politics, looking at five of the more unusual parties.
Animal Party
“Animals are individuals with consciousness and feeling. Their lives must be handled with care,” begins the manifesto of the Animal Party, which features a plaintive-looking dog on its website asking for donations.
Among its policies are: enshrining animal rights in the Constitution, creating a combined health and animal rights ministry to look after human and animal health, and probing all cabinet decisions for their influence on animal welfare.
The party also urges an end to the livestock industry, with a “drastic reduction” in the number of animals killed for consumption.
Aquariums and circuses with animals would be banned, with stricter rules on petting zoos — “animals are not cuddly toys”.
The “Partij voor der Dieren” also campaigns on environmental issues such as housing and general welfare.
It won nearly 400,000 votes in the 2021 election, giving it six seats in the 150-seat parliament.
50 plus
As the name suggests, this party campaigns for the rights of voters of a more advanced age.
It wants the pension age restored to 65 (it rises to 67 in 2024), limits on social security contributions from those aged 45 and over, and the scrapping of inheritance tax.
50 plus won just over one percent of the vote in the 2021 election, giving it one seat in parliament. It had previously enjoyed four seats.
Party for a new generation
At the other end of the age spectrum is the Party for a New Generation, which campaigns for Dutch youth.
Free public transport and education, lowering the voting age to 14, and “radical equality” (“Smash The Patriarchy”) are among the key points of this party’s manifesto.
The party is putting up four under-18s on its voting list and the average age of their candidates is 29.8.
“They all believe that things can be better and less stressful in the Netherlands,” says the party’s website.
Party for sport
Sporting a beaming woman enjoying exercise outside on her bike on its website, the Party for Sport says it is the only party pushing for “sport, movement, and a healthy lifestyle for all Dutch people”.
Free sports facilities for the under-21s, a reduction in healthcare contributions for “people demonstrating a healthy lifestyle”, and incentives for people to walk or cycle to work are among the party’s manifesto pledges.
The party wants compulsory swimming in the school curriculum, with at least two one-hour physical education classes per week.
Young pupils will be tested not only for academic skills but also on how well they exercise.
Netherlands with a plan
The “Netherlands with a plan” party wants “more colour in politics” and “strength through differences”.
It sets out its vision on a homepage featuring a perfect Dutch landscape of windmill and canal, casting itself as a “youth movement” that also “wants to give the Asian community of the Netherlands a voice”.
The “plan” includes: free transport for everyone, unconditional basic income, free childcare from the age of two, and referendums on a wide variety of issues.

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