Rutte crowned in choreographed 'Idols' show
1 June 2006, AMSTERDAM — Aside from a minority of die-hard Rita Verdonk fans, it was all smiles in the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening as Mark Rutte was elected the new political leader of the Liberal Party (VVD).
1 June 2006
AMSTERDAM — Aside from a minority of die-hard Rita Verdonk fans, it was all smiles in the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening as Mark Rutte was elected the new political leader of the Liberal Party (VVD).
The event was deftly media-managed by party bosses to ensure the bitterness of the election campaign was forgotten in an Idols-style finale.
With live coverage on two television stations and on the internet, VVD chairman Jan van Zaanen took up position at the front of the podium just before 7.30pm. The three candidates Mark Rutte, Rita Verdonk and Jelleke Veenendaal stood behind. In true award ceremony fashion, an independent notary public handed Van Zaanen the envelope containing the winner's name.
He stalled for a moment to add to the tension and to wait until the cameras were definitely rolling. The Liberals wanted to milk as much public exposure as possible from what normally would be a run-of-the-mill internal party issue.
This leadership election was supposed to be different because for the first time the 40,000 members of the party, not just MPs, had a vote. The media and the watching public were more interested in whether Verdonk, the bullish immigration minister, was going to win. Most commentators - including Expatica - thought she would.
As everyone held their collective breath, on cue Van Zaanen announced that Rutte was the new lijsttrekker (political leader) of the VVD. The junior Education minister looked elated for a moment, and then turned to Verdonk to give her three pecks on the cheeks. She graciously accepted defeat and his kisses.
The harsh words and accusations of the election campaign were forgotten. It was as if Verdonk had never called Rutte a fraudster. Ed Nijpels, one of his supporters, may have described her as a "walking disaster", but that was then. The party bosses impressed on all sides for the need to stay on message — the ‘VVD is united’.
Verdonk gave a short speech to thank her supporters and to pledge she will stand firmly behind Rutte "to work together to make the VVD the largest party". Speaking to journalists later, she rejected any notion of leaving the VVD and joining one of the fledgling right-wing outfits planning to contest the general election in 2007.
Rutte hardly differs with Verdonk on policy issues but when it comes to personality they are like chalk and cheese. Rutte is regarded as a moderate and a team player; Verdonk portrayed herself during the election as a straight-talking populist.
Approximately 74 percent of the party's 40,000 members voted. It was a tight finish. Rutte got 51 percent of the vote and Verdonk got 46 percent. There were only 1,600 votes between them. Veenendaal got 803 votes, 3 percent of the total cast.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news