Rutte says maybe, Verdonksays no to VVD leadership
8 March 2006, AMSTERDAM — Junior education minister Mark Rutte was said to be considering putting himself forward for the position of parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party (VVD) after the shock resignation of the current incumbent Jozias van Aartsen.
8 March 2006
AMSTERDAM — Junior education minister Mark Rutte was said to be considering putting himself forward for the position of parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party (VVD) after the shock resignation of the current incumbent Jozias van Aartsen.
Rutte, 39, expressed interest in the position on Wednesday shortly before Liberal MPs met to discuss the vacancy.
Van Aartsen told a press conference he had set himself a minimum for the number of seats he wanted to win in the local elections on Tuesday. As the party's percentage of the vote dropped to 13.8 percent compared to 15.3 percent in 2002 he felt he had to resign.
The Liberals won 1,246 seats, down on the 1,374 it took in the local elections four years ago. Most commentators felt the party did well given the unpopularity of the coalition government it is part of.
As soon as Van Aartsen's decision was announced, talk settled on Rutte and Defence Minister Henk Kamp as the most likely replacements. The name of Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk was also mentioned, but she moved quickly to quash the idea. Kamp has also ruled out allowing his name to go forward.
Ironically, Rutte was the VVD director of elections for local election campaign.
Van Aartsen was initially defiant about the party's showing in Tuesday's election. He said the result was no indication of how the VVD and its coalition partners (CDA and D66) will do in the general election in 2007.
Van Aartsen will remain active as an MP for the VVD in parliament. His deputy Bibi de Vries will lead the party until a new faction leader is chosen.
Pollster Maurice de Hond carried out a survey for Tuesday's election in which he asked the public how they would vote if there was a general election now. The PvdA and SP emerged as the biggest winners in the poll.
The coalition parties would lose a total of 16 seats, depriving the government of a majority, the poll suggested. Labour, SP and the green-left GroenLinks would take a total of 76 of the 150 seats in parliament, giving the left-wing opposition a slight majority.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news