'Iron Rita' doesn't covet leadership, for now

5th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

UPDATED 6 October 2005, AMSTERDAM — Rita Verdonk, the hard-line minister of immigration and integration, has brushed off the suggestion she should lead the Liberals (VVD) into the next general election.

UPDATED 6 October 2005

AMSTERDAM — Rita Verdonk, the hard-line minister of immigration and integration, has brushed off the suggestion she should lead the Liberals (VVD) into the next general election.

"At this moment I have absolutely no ambition in this direction," Verdonk said while visiting an asylum-seekers centre in the north of Amsterdam on Thursday. "There is only one lijsttrekker and that is Jozias van Aartsen," she said.  

The idea of Verdonk taking on the role of VVD "lijsttrekker" (the head of the party's list of candidates) has been buzzing around political corridors in The Hague for some time.

In an article in the latest edition of magazine 'HP/De Tijd', Environment and Housing Minister Sybilla Dekker described Verdonk — who revels in her nickname 'Iron Rita' — as an "excellent candidate" to lead the VVD into the next general election.

She is the right age too, according to Dekker. "No, she is not very young... somewhere in her 40s or there abouts, right? That is still young," Dekker mused. Verdonk will celebrate her 50th birthday on 18 October.

Deputy Prime Minster and Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm was lijsttrekker for the Liberals in the last general election. He has indicated he does not want to lead the party into the next parliamentary election in 2007.

Parliamentary party leader Jozias van Aartsen is the only one to openly campaign to take over from Zalm. The two men have clashed more than once in relation to the ambiguity of who is the real leader of the party: the lijsttrekker or the leader of the party's MPs in parliament.

Veteran Hans Wiegel will announce in March or April next year whether he will also throw his hat into the ring. Wiegel was leader of the Liberal faction in parliament from 1971 to 1977. He served as deputy prime minister from December 1977 to September 1981..

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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