Contradictory polls in Verdonk-Rutte contest
31 March 2006, AMSTERDAM — Two opinion polls have come up with different forecasts on how the Liberal Party (VVD) would perform at the next general election depending on whether it was led by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk or junior Education minister Mark Rutte.
31 March 2006
AMSTERDAM — Two opinion polls have come up with different forecasts on how the Liberal Party (VVD) would perform at the next general election depending on whether it was led by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk or junior Education minister Mark Rutte.
An internet-based poll by Maurice de Hond for national news service NOS suggested Verdonk as Lijsttrekker (election leader) could win the VVD five to seven more seats than Rutte.
But an opinion poll carried out by market research firm TNS NIPO for RTL Nieuws forecast the VVD under Rutte could win 21 and 22 seats, while under Verdonk the Liberals would win 18 to 19 seats.
TNS NIPO questioned 600 people who voted for centre or right-wing parties at the election in 2003. De Hond questioned 800 voters.
A TNS NIPO poll on the standing of all the parties published on 3 March indicated the VVD would win 20 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament if the election was held now.
The VVD won 27 seats in the last general election but its participation in the cost-cutting centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is expected to eat into its support in the general election next year.
De Hond's suggested Verdonk and Rutte are equally popular among VVD voters, but Verdonk would attract more of the right-wing voters who are currently considering voting for Marco Pastors of Leefbaar Rotterdam or Independent Conservative Geert Wilders.
Verdonk, De Hond said, would also be more appealing to Christian Democrat voters.
TNS NIPO's poll suggested Rutte would be the preference of 54 percent of VVD supporters, with 45 percent favouring Verdonk. Non-VVD voters also expressed a slight preference for Rutte.
The junior minister seemed to be the unanimous choice within the VVD when the resignation of Jozias van Aartsen as leader of the parliamentary party leader after the local elections on 7 March created the vacancy.
MP Jelleke Veenendaal put her name forward later in the month to make it a token contest. She has no realistic chance of winning.
Verdonk surprised everyone on Thursday when she announced she was under pressure from all sides within the VVD to be a candidate. She is to announce next Wednesday whether she will put her name forward.
All nominations have to be lodged by 20 April and the party will appoint the political leader by 31 May.
Choosing Verdonk would pose a dilemma for the VVD. Rutte was elected an MP in 2003 and could take over from caretaker parliamentary party leader leader Willibrord van Beek straight away.
Verdonk wasn't a candidate in the last election and therefore could not automatically assume the high-profile position. Van Beek would have to stay on until the election.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news