Opinion polls (Maurice de Hond) in recent weeks have always shown Rita Verdonk as the favourite. But I guess the Ayaan Hirsi Ali debacle cost her precious support. And perhaps proves, to the benefit of voter intelligence, that support cannot last based on lies, repeating hardheaded dogmas ("rule are rules") and by being unfeeling and aloof to realities on the ground.
Unlike Verdonk , Rutte seems to be more cool-headed and actually has an agenda (instead of support based on Fortuynistic-populism). It will be interesting to see how in the next year or so till the next general elections the Rutte camp will try to (as they aim and claim) make the VVD the biggest party of the Netherlands. Rutte thanks his opponents (refering to Verdonk as a "Formidable opponent"), called for party unity:
"With the VVD the Netherlands must become a country with less rules and less chagrin. Our goal is to make the VVD as big as possible, maybe even the biggest."
Within moments after the outcome of the elections were made knownand calling herself as a "sportmanlike loser" , Verdonk was no where to be seen and not available for comment.
This is the first time in Dutch political history that a party primary was held. In the Netherlands voting is based on a list of candidates that each party proposes. The "lijsttrekker" ("list-puller", and also parliamentarian faction leader) is placed on top of the election ballot for the parliamentary elections. The custom is that the party with the biggest share of votes also functions as the party responsible for forming a coalition government. And the party primary would then also serve as the prime minister.
At present Partij van de Arbeid (Labour Party) seems to be the nation's favourite, andcould rely on a total of 47 out of 150 seats in Parliament (if elections were to be held tomorrow).
Update 1 juni 2006
“Overtuigd zonder overtuiging” [Persuaded without persuasion]
Roland van der Vorst, pg95 Vrij Nederland, 27 mei 2006
How tough is Verdonk, and how much of this tough Iron Lady image is a facade rather than real?
“Wanting to be tough is a sign of weakness […]
A minister with the image of a tough leader. Someone who dares to say what it is [all] about and [does not leave anything to chance]. Imperturbable as well. A type of leader that we do come across on the school yard, but that is seldom in Dutch politics. Authoritative demeanour of a politician is tolerated, only if this can be justified by belief or persuasion. A leader who arrives at the top just like that—because of the simple fact that he is charismatic—arouses suspicion. Dutch politician do not continuously cry out that it is all ‘about the contents, and not the form’ [“het gaat om de inhoud, niet om de vorm”], for nothing.”
UPDATE 2 juni 2006
Someone alerted me of the fact that primaries have been held more than once in the Netherlands, by the D66 (Democrats) and PvdA (Labour Party). In the comment there are more details. Sorry for this misinformation. Thanks to Jeltje van Nieuwenhove for this info!