Liberal MPs pick 'interim pope'

9th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

9 March 2006, AMSTERDAM — Dutch Liberal Party (VVD) MPs have appointed a relative unknown to fill in as leader of the parliamentary party until the members of the VVD choose a permanent replacement.

9 March 2006

AMSTERDAM — Dutch Liberal Party (VVD) MPs have appointed a relative unknown to fill in as leader of the parliamentary party until the members of the VVD choose a permanent replacement.

 

Willibrord van Beek

MP Willibrord van Beek, 57, will act as 'interim pope', the VVD announced.

Van Beek has been a member of parliament for the VVD since 1998, but he says he has no ambition to be the leader for the long term.

He will follow the political line set out by his predecessor Jozias van Aartsen but he said he did not rule out the possibility he might "answer some questions differently".

The question of leadership has been a thorny one within the VVD for some time. Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm is the political leader and led the party into the last general election. As a minister he is not a member of parliament.

Van Aartsen was the public face of the party but his colleagues declined to grant him the title of party leader.

The Dutch political scene was stunned on Wednesday when Van Aartsen resigned as parliamentary leader in response to the VVD's losses in the local elections the day before.

Junior Education minister Mark Rutte has been tipped to replace him and he decided on Thursday he will stand. So far he is the only one.  Rutte, 39, is a rising star within the VVD and has been talked about as a future leader.

The question is whether he is wise to accept promotion to such a prominent position at this stage of his career. He will is conscious the VVD - in government with the Christian Democrats and D66 - faces a tough general election battle in 14 months.

Rutte was director of the VVD's local election campaign, but no one seems to blame him for the loss of 128 municipal seats on Tuesday. Although most commentators felt the VVD did well not to lose more, Van Aartsen accepted responsibility for the losses and resigned as parliamentary leader.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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