Verdonk leaves VVD after ongoing conflict
16 October 2007, THE HAGUE (ANP) - Rita Verdonk’s popularity with VVD voters over the past 18 months has stood in stark contrast with the inability of the party leadership to muster fondness for Verdonk. It all began with the battle for VVD party leadership in 2006, when current party leader Mark Rutte narrowly beat Verdonk in the race. The party has been the scene of regular clashes since then.
16 October 2007
THE HAGUE (ANP) - Rita Verdonk’s popularity with VVD voters over the past 18 months has stood in stark contrast with the inability of the party leadership to muster fondness for Verdonk. It all began with the battle for VVD party leadership in 2006, when current party leader Mark Rutte narrowly beat Verdonk in the race. The party has been the scene of regular clashes since then.
It became clear even before the parliamentary elections of November last year that the two cannot see eye to eye. Rutte flew into a blind rage when Verdonk declared herself a candidate for the post of deputy prime minister for the VVD. She also campaigned with the help of her own team.
A week after the elections, Verdonk launched an attack on her rival when it emerged that she had received 620,000 preferential votes, 60,000 more than Rutte had. Rutte managed, with support from his faction, to quash her call for a committee of experts to investigate the VVD leadership. "Let bygones be bygones," the faction chairman said at the time.
After a publication in NRC Handelsblad in which she admitted to unabated slumbering ambitions for party leadership, Verdonk announced at the beginning of 2007 that she plans to disband the Stichting Stem Rita Verdonk (Vote for Rita Verdonk Foundation) and change her www.stemrita.nl website.
At the beginning of June, Verdonk was once again forced to retrace her steps following an interview in HP/De Tijd in which she had called Rutte "a respectable VVD member, but not truly right wing". Her comment was not well received within the VVD faction, after which Verdonk was again forced to announce that she was not in conflict with her party leader. Rutte said in response to this statement that he "considered the matter closed."
But less than a week later Rutte responded with the "rigorous rule" that faction members should limit the comments they make to the media to issues related to their own portfolio only. Criticism on the course of the party or the party chairman may only be expressed within the faction. "Those who cannot efface themselves for the good of the liberal vision are welcome to leave. I will not hesitate to expel someone from the faction if needed."
In mid-June the Dekker commission, established to investigate the VVD’s election defeat, wrote that there is no room for slumbering ambitions of party leadership without party leadership elections. There is no room for solo artists.
Not much later Verdonk said in an interview that her party had been "hijacked by left-wing liberals". Rutte let these comments pass because the interview had been recorded before he announced his "rigorous rules".
Last month Rutte was left with no choice after Verdonk’s comments (about the course the party is taking) during a private dinner where members of the press happened to be present. Verdonk was expelled from the faction, a decision that received majority support at the party congress a few days later.
Verdonk sought confrontation and announced her intention to remain an MP as well as VVD member. The party executive however found this impossible: Verdonk must either leave parliament or give up her VVD membership. If not, she will be expelled. This step was made more difficult by an earlier statement at the VVD congress that Verdonk should remain on for the sake of the party.
After honorary VVD members were equally unsuccessful in their attempts to convince Verdonk to change her mind, the party executive decided to take the plunge on Monday evening. It presented Verdonk with an ultimatum, giving her until Friday to choose between her seat in parliament and VVD membership. Verdonk wasted no time and took the honourable way out. She resigned from the VVD to continue as a one-person faction.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2007]
Subject: Dutch news