Up to that point, the only thing that caused a stir among the public was the audacious remarks made by the VVD leading candidate Vincent Karremans, who thrust himself into the position of most environmentally conscious politician. Karremans suddenly advocated a car-free city and planned to solve the housing shortage by just DOING IT. There wasn’t much else to send sparks flying during the discussion and that was due in part to the positions taken by the candidates.
The ten leading candidates (or their alternates) present in the Paviljoen were invited by the Rotterdam Federation of Student Associations and the University Council to debate topics of interest to students. These topics included underground services at night, housing, new entrepreneurs, sustainability and security. Many of the debates didn’t reveal any opposing points of view: a surprising majority of parties supported the pilot project for night-time underground services, all parties were in favour of more housing for students and middle-income groups, and not a single party wanted reduced taxes for new entrepreneurs.
More cameras or fewer cameras
Things got a bit more exciting when the subject switched to security. VVD and Leefbaar chiefly wanted more cameras. They were opposed by the Partij voor de Dieren, who wanted fewer cameras, while most of the other parties advocated different types of security measures. Karremans in particular was given a dressing down, because no one understood how cameras increased security for female students cycling home. “That offers nothing more than security in hindsight”, said Judith Bokhove (GroenLinks). Jaap Rozema, sixth on the candidate’s list for the Partij voor de Dieren, was mocked when his clumsy phrasing made it sound as if privacy issues were more important than the problem of sexual assaults.
There was a friendly ambiance during the debate, with each politician playing his or her own role. Leefbaar alderman Ronald Simons was the pragmatist (‘that’s what we’ve already been doing all this time’), D66’s Saïd Kasmi was the peacemaker (in light of his compliments to his competing colleagues), and Karremans was the court jester whose audacious remarks had them laughing and eating out of his hand. It also became clear that debating is an art: Burak Yildiz (number 12 on the SP list) and Christine Zandberg (number 4 with CDA) barely had a chance to speak.
Love for Leefbaar
Bokhove and the PvdA’s Barbara Kathmann took on the role as the stern opposition and tempers flared when D66 politician Kasmi seemed to openly declare his love for Leefbaar Rotterdam. The same Kasmi had earlier stated he would no longer work with coalition partner Leefbaar because of its alliance with Forum voor Democratie. Kathmann admonished the D66 candidate: “Residents of Rotterdam have been pushed into a corner for the last four years and suddenly now you’re saying it’s too much? You should be ashamed of yourself!” Jeroen Schilder (NIDA) also laid into Kasmi: “Four years ago Leefbaar was the same as it is now. Another example: the ban on mosques.”
Most students in the foyer agreed: Kathmann had stood out among the candidates. “But unfortunately, she’s with the PvdA.” That party’s national image is a liability for the politician. International Bachelor Economics and Business Economics (IBEB) student Max Bruin believed there were only minor differences between the parties. “Vincent Karremans (VVD) was very articulate and he’s quite charismatic. It was a fiercer debate than the one I attended before, and there was more action. I vote VVD in the national elections, but I haven’t the faintest idea how I’ll vote locally. I’ll first have to take a good look at all the election programmes.”
Before the debate, Psychology student Jamie Gillis couldn’t choose between GroenLinks and D66, but that all changed after the debate. “Now I have to decide between GroenLinks and PvdA. I think Kathmann made a strong showing. She’s honest and tells it the way it is. I wasn’t really aware of the collaboration between D66 and Leefbaar Rotterdam, and I’m a little disappointed in D66. Before I make my final choice, I’m going to read up on GroenLinks and PvdA. One of the things I’m interested in is their stance on student housing.”