Trading on growing anger having to back bail-outs abroad alongside cuts at home, the Socialists are poised to double their parliamentary share in elections in ten days’ time. And their decidedly lukewarm stance towards the EU is threatening to end Holland’s reputation as a dependable, Brussels-friendly members of the beleaguered Eurozone club.
The rise of the Socialists to frontline politics is all the more remarkable given their origins as a 1970s Maoist group with their own “little red book”. Indeed, they appear unlikely critics of the EU – the antithesis of the far-Right reactionaries who sometimes dominate the eurosceptic tribe.
Their slogan – a red star inside a tomato – harks back to their origins as a fruit-pelting protest group, while their leader, Emile Roemer, is a former teacher, untested on the national political stage. Yet now their candidates dominate the national airwaves – causing alarm for political leaders across the border in both Belgium and Germany [...]
Mr Roemer, the charismatic leader of the Socialist Party, [said] he “wouldn’t be intimidated by a bunch of people in Brussels.” The 50-year-old, dubbed “Fozzie Bear” by a popular Dutch news blog, is relishing his moment in the spotlight, dominating the coverage of the election with his straight talking and populist rhetoric [...]
The only party calling for a complete withdrawal from the euro and the EU is Geert Wilders’ far-Right Freedom Party – the party which withdrew its support for the government coalition earlier this year, caused it to collapse and sparking the forthcoming election. Like the Socialists, the Freedom Party is popular in the southern areas around Maastricht, where the collapse of the mining industry in the 1970s left a legacy of higher than average unemployment – around eight per cent in Limburg.
Ideologically the parties appear poles apart. Practically, however, a lot of their economic policies are very similar, and much of the Socialists’ new support is coming from former Freedom Party voters.