Rutte attacks Verdonk's 'clarity'

2nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

2 May 2006, AMSTERDAM — Junior Education minister Mark Rutte launched a strong attack on Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk's much-vaunted "clarity" on Monday night during the second debate in the Liberal Party (VVD) leadership campaign.

2 May 2006

AMSTERDAM — Junior Education minister Mark Rutte launched a strong attack on Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk's much-vaunted "clarity" on Monday night during the second debate in the Liberal Party (VVD) leadership campaign.

Rutte accused Verdonk of changing her views on both mortgage tax relief and the idea of changing Article 23 of the Constitution. This is the article that guarantees freedom of education and permits State funding for denominational and other private schools.

The Immigration and Integration Minister was initially in favour of doing away with Article 23 and in favour of a debate on the future of mortgage tax relief, Rutte said. "Now she isn't. But you cannot take on one viewpoint, and the opposite," Rutte said.

Verdonk countered this by saying that she was bound by the agreement made by the coalition government not to interfere with Article 23. "Thereafter it is up to the members of the VVD," she said.

And to rectify her weak performance on the issue in the first debate, Verdonk told the audience at the beginning of Monday's debate that mortgage tax relief was "as solid as a house" in her hands.

The debate in Rotterdam between Rutte, Verdonk and MP Jelleke Veenendaal proved to be very popular. So much so, it had to be moved outdoors to accommodate the 600-strong audience. This helped ensure the debate was lively and occasionally boisterous.

Rutte emphasised he had no intention of tampering with mortgage tax relief or Article 23 if elected to lead the VVD into the general election next year.

As there are few if any real policy differences between them, Rutte focused his assault on Verdonk's claim to be a politician of clarity and decisiveness. "It is villainous, but it is necessary," Rutte told the audience to excuse himself beforehand. This annoyed Verdonk, who said she had no interest in a "yes it is, not it isn't" debate.

Some 40,000 members of the Liberal Party can vote for their choice for lijsttrekker (election leader) between 10 and 24 May. The candidates are due to debate four more times during the campaign and the result of the election will be announced on 1 June.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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