Labour leader resigns from Dutch parliament

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The head of the Netherlands' largest opposition party announced his resignation Monday after severe criticism of his leadership which saw his Labour Party slump to new lows in opinion polls.

Job Cohen, 64, who took over Labour's (PvdA) leadership in April 2010, said he believed he failed as an effective opposition leader in giving direction to voters in what he termed a "time of crisis".

"When you fail as political leader to effectively contribute, then you have to resign," he said at a press conference broadcast on national television.

"I joined national politics because I wanted to positively contribute to a society where as many people as possible - irrespective of race and creed -- come to their full potential," he added in a statement.

"But I have realised that I failed to do so."

Cohen made his entrance into parliamentary politics in June 2010, after a successful nine-year stint as Amsterdam mayor, where he earned kudos for his efforts to reconcile the city's cultural groups and for his liberal views.

He became one of the first mayors in the world to officiate over a gay marriage a few months after being appointed to the mayor's chair in 2001, following the passing of a Dutch law he himself helped to write.

He was also credited with preventing a feared wave of retaliatory violence after the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Islamist.

His resignation comes after a week of turmoil within the leftist party, which convened a crisis meeting last Thursday to discuss his position.

An opinion poll on Sunday by political barometer Maurice de Hond indicated that the PvdA -- once a powerhouse within Dutch leftist politics -- would only win 14 seats if elections were held now.

Labour has 30 seats in the 150-seat lower house, where a coalition of Prime Minister Premier Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA), which has the backing of the far rightwing anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV), holds a majority of 76 seats.

© 2012 AFP

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