No prizes for guessing that the Freedom Party was the biggest winner in Thursday’s European election in the Netherlands. Nrc.next announces the result as if it were a TV show; shining yellow stars surround a blue background like a sign outside a theatre with the party’s initials PVV in big yellow letters in the middle. The inside pages feature a gold cup inscribed with a quote from party leader Geert Wilders: “We are going to get much, much bigger.”
The populist rightwing Freedom Party won four seats in the European Parliament with its clear campaign message on Europe: no. The other winners in the European election were the centre-left D66 party, whose message was equally simple: “Yes to Europe”.
The Christian Democrats were the only party to remain ahead of the anti-Islam Freedom Party. The conservative VVD managed to hold onto 3 seats in spite of predictions of a disastrous result. The big losers were surprisingly the Labour Party, who had difficulty explaining their complicated message to the electorate during the campaign. In Trouw Development Minister Bert Koenders says “‘It is not about whether you are for or against Europe, it is a about what your party wants to do in Europe.” The Socialist Party, Green Left and smaller Christian parties all held on to their two seats. The Animal Rights Party appears to have just missed gaining one seat in the European Parliament.
Elderly voters turn out in vain
AD reports that voters were well informed about the requirement to produce proof of identity in 350 municipalities. Only the elderly had problems as many of them no longer have valid identity papers. Seventy-two-year-old Maria Verbeek tore up her ballot paper when it turned out that she would not be able to vote using her over-65s pass. She questions the wisdom of the new measure, especially as so few people do actually turn out to vote, asking “Have the government gone mad?”
Many elderly people tried to vote using veteran passes, expired passports, or tattered driving licences. One woman submitted an official complaint at her local polling station.
Around 300 people in the town of Nieuwegein were unable to vote early in the morning, as the ballot boxes had not been delivered to the polling stations. A red-faced mayor apologised to voters, saying, “This just shouldn’t happen, we have done everything we can to rectify the situation.” The error was only discovered 15 minutes before polling stations were due to open.
Committee recommends continuing metro line
The Veerman committee presented its recommendations to Amsterdam’s city council on Wednesday on whether or not to go ahead with its North-South metro line after serious subsidence rendered a number of historic buildings unsafe earlier this year. Trouw reports unsurprisingly that residents hoped the outcome would bring an end to all their misery. But the Veerman report recommends continuing with the construction of the line under the historic heart of the capital in spite of all the risks.
Its recommendations include renegotiating the finances with the national government as up to now the city of Amsterdam has been expected to take care of the spiralling costs all by itself. A flying squad should be set up to troubleshoot any problems encountered. A project manager should be appointed to oversee the whole operation. Residents should be compensated more generously for any damage. They should also be taken more seriously, “to remove the fear and irritation”.
Continuing with the project will bring the total cost of the project to 3.1 billion euros. But stopping would cost the city 1.7 billion euros on top of what has already been spent. Eventually the project will add to Amsterdam’s prestige and international allure. “The importance of the North-South line goes beyond the city limits,” says the report. The metro line will be one of Europe’s busiest once it is finished, probably in 2018 – but even that is not certain. It will carry 200,000 passengers every day and cut travelling time from the north of the capital to the south to just 16 minutes. Well, let’s hope it is worth it.
Stereotype Moroccan gigolo is a myth
Nrc.next asks its readers if they have heard the story about older men using young often Moroccan boys for sex. It is definitely a stereotype, but luckily one that is not based on fact. A study into male prostitution by the University of Amsterdam has discovered that many gigolos pretend they are younger and - if they can get away with it - that they are Moroccan because it just pays better.
The researchers divided the male prostitutes into three groups. The first they call the ‘profs’ or weekend amateurs. They see sex in exchange for money as a serious hobby or job. They are over-18 and enjoy the sex. The second group are the adventurers. This group is younger – one in three is under age. They have a low level of education, often have a foreign background and don’t particularly like having sex with older men. But they just think, “ Well, if he’s mad enough to pay for it…” . The third group are the victims. They often have a sugar daddy and are usually victims of sexual abuse. This group does not enjoy the sex and wants help.
All of the men in the survey had had under-age sex with someone at least five years older than themselves. At least half had sex at least once without wanting to. And they all had sex in exchange for money before reaching the age of 18. According to police figures there are 800 underage male victims of sexual abuse every year. Most of the abusers are men or boys. Victims almost always know their abusers. The stereotype paedophile who jumps out of the bushes practically doesn’t exist. Well that’s a relief now – or is it?
Mayor disputes crime figures
In de Volkskrant Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb disputes figures which indicate 90 percent of Moroccan criminals re-offend. The shocking figures were presented by criminologist Professor Frank Bovenkerk this week. “ We do not agree with Bovenkerk’s figures,” says the Moroccan-born mayor. In response he says recidivism among Moroccan criminals was 41 percent in 2006 and 31 percent a year later. He puts the discrepancy between the statistics down to a difference in definitions.
Similarly, figures which show 55 percent of Moroccan youths come into contact with the police can include anything from suspicion to actual prosecution. According to the mayor, police officers are more likely to stop and question youths belonging to this group although he is unable to produce any evidence for this. Labour councillor Matthijs van Muijen also disputes the view presented by the professor. He points out that measures to prevent recidivism are working. What is certain is that this group has a serious image problem.