Woman who would be PM leaves politics

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Former Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is quitting politics after dismal election results for her newly founded nationalist party, ToN. Ms Verdonk announced her decision on Friday evening.

A former prison director, Rita Verdonk appeared destined for success. Asked by the conservative liberal VVD party to become its Immigration Minister in 2003, she quickly became one of the most popular ministers. In the 2006 elections she got more votes than then party leader Mark Rutte, the current prime minister.

Her fortunes took a turn when she lost a leadership contest with Rutte, and with it the possibility of becoming the Netherlands' first woman prime minister. Rita Verdonk decided to leave the VVD to set up her own party, Proud of the Netherlands ToN.

Early polls predicted no less than 26 seats for the party, but in the event Verdonk's party returned no MPs at all in 2010. Analysts suggested that Verdonk's electorate turned to Geert Wilders' anti-immigration Freedom Party instead. In local elections the ToN party did moderately well, although several councillors have since decided to break ranks and joined other parties or became independent.

Party delegates will meet next month to decide whether the ToN party will be disbanded.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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