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17 May, 2019 12:01

Imperiled Dutch PM’s party: Vote us, or our Kremlin-loving rivals will give country to Putin

Imperiled Dutch PM’s party: Vote us, or our Kremlin-loving rivals will give country to Putin

When you get crushed at the ballot box and want to undercut the guys who beat you, the best strategy is to say they are in love with the Kremlin and want to sell the country to Putin, the ruling Dutch party apparently believes.

People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the party of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, is in a perilous situation at the moment. Two months ago political newcomers from Forum for Democracy (FvD) crushed the centrist ruling coalition in provincial elections.

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Next week Dutch voters choose their representatives at the European Parliament and Prime Minister Rutte and his people have apparently decided it’s time to unpack the ultimate weapon: red-baiting.

A political ad published by VVD on Thursday tells the Dutch they shouldn’t vote for FvD because its leader Thierry Baudet … wants to hand the Netherlands over to Vladimir Putin. Why? Because Baudet, is in love with the Russian president – at least that’s what the cartoonish popping out eyes, with hearts in them and the hashtag #Kremlincrush imply.

The ad does not seem very convincing though. The evidence of Baudet’s infatuation boils down to him going against Western establishment’s common wisdom in saying that the threat of Russia is grossly exaggerated and that Moscow could be a good ally in the modern world. Why the Eurosceptic nationalist party would be conspiring to betray its country to a foreign power is never explained.

The secret proof is probably the Soviet anthem, which creators of the video used as background music. The Russian one uses the same tune with different lyrics, so they are difficult to distinguish for a foreigner, but maybe VVD wanted to say Baudet had been recruited over 30 years ago, when the USSR still existed?

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The attack is the latest in a series launched by VVD against their FvD opponents in the run up to next week’s vote and may seem like an act of desperation, but it is actually not. At least that’s what Klaas Dijkhoff, the leader of the party faction in the Dutch House, says.

“We just lost an election. This doesn’t mean we are in a panic,” he told Algemeen Dagblad daily. “If our military and intelligence services all say Russia is a threat and you say Russia can be our friend, you have some explaining to do.”

FvD on the contrary believe their critics are simply going into a full meltdown before ultimate political demise.

Russia scaremongering is quite a popular campaign tactic these days in many countries, but it doesn’t necessarily pay off. For example, Ukraine’s incumbent President Petro Poroshenko tried to get reelected by stating that his actual opponent is Putin rather than Volodymyr Zelensky, the comedian turned politician, whose name was on the ballot. Zelensky won in a landslide, scoring over 73 percent of the votes.

VVD is no stranger to using Putin’s name for political grandstanding and getting burned as a result. Halbe Zijlstra, Dijkhoff’s predecessor as party faction leader who later became foreign minister, had to resign in disgrace last year after confessing that he had lied about a meeting with Putin. Zijlstra had falsely claimed that he heard the Russian leader lay an imperialistic claim on neighboring countries.

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