Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Mark Rutte has been elected leader of the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). In a close internal election, the junior minister for Education beat the minister for Immigration and Integration Rita Verdonk and backbencher Jelleke Veenendaal.
On 31 May 2006, the party’s president Jan van Zanen announced the result, which was broadcast live on Dutch television. He announced that 28,788 people voted in this election, that is 74% of the eligible VVD members. They voted mostly by telephone and via the Internet. Mark Rutte obtained 51.5%, leaving Rita Verdonk second, with 45.5% of the vote. Jelleke Veenendaal obtained 3.0% of the vote.
Mark Rutte is the current junior minister for Education, Culture and Science, with a special responsibility for higher education and science. He was the first to put forth his candidacy and the VVD leadership and the party board backed him. After studying history and leading the VVD youth (JOVD) Rutte became manager for Unilever. In 2002 he became junior minister for Social Affairs and Employment, after a cabinet reshuffle he became junior minister of the ministry for Education, Culture and Science. Rutte is generally perceived to stand on the progressive side within the VVD. He promised “to make the VVD a party for everyone and not just of the elite”. His youthful and charismatic appearance has been likened to the successful leader of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) Wouter Bos. It is generally expected that Rutte will stand down as junior minister and return to his seat in parliament.
The elections were called after the 2006 municipal elections. Jozias van Aartsen, who led the VVD until after the elections, stepped down as political leader of the VVD, after his party performed particularly bad in those elections.