Dutch Green leader Klaver eyes coalition role

The Hague, March 9 (AFP/APP): Jesse Klaver, head of the Dutch green party GroenLinks, hopes for a coalition role after next week’s elections even though the coronavirus has distracted some voters from climate change.

The charismatic 34-year-old helped GroenLinks (Green-Left) surge to become the joint-second largest opposition party in 2017. Despite dipping in the polls as Prime Minister Mark Rutte looks set to head a new coalition government, Klaver said he was “very optimistic” he can convince voters that climate issues should top the electoral agenda on March 17.

“Just a year ago we were polling much higher than we’re doing right now. Just a year ago, the streets were filled with especially young people going on the streets and asking for climate justice,” Klaver told AFP in an interview in parliament. “That’s not happening right now but it’s still there, and even though we don’t see it all the time, I know it’s there, and we try to keep the flame burning.”

GroenLinks stayed out of Rutte’s coalition after the last elections but this time would be ready to join. “I would love to be in the next government and I am very hopeful that it’s going to happen this time,” he said. Klaver added that “we will join a government even if it is Mark Rutte as prime minister” but hoped for a coalition grouping all the Dutch left wing and progressive parties.

“I don’t want to enter a government to keep the status quo,” he said. Known for his resemblance to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and for rock-star rallies, Klaver admitted GroenLinks’s polling had been hurt by Covid restrictions on campaigning.

Instead of addressing thousands of supporters in person, Klaver now reaches out on social media from a makeshift studio in the party’s parliamentary offices lined with posters and political books. Klaver acknowledged that the global pandemic had distracted from the climate movement around the world.

But he said he shared a message with other green parties in other countries that “we have to make the world greener after Covid, and more equal.” Rutte, by contrast, was “not being honest to voters” and said the current coalition “talk green but they act grey, they talk left but act right.”

As the child of a father of Moroccan descent and a Dutch-Indonesian mother, Klaver is also passionate about fighting the Netherlands’ problem with racism. This ranges from what he calls the “in your face racism” of far-right politician Geert Wilders and populist Thierry Baudet, to institutional racism.

Rutte had to resign in January over a scandal in which thousands of parents — many of them from immigrant backgrounds — were falsely accused of scamming childcare.

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