Tension mounts as VVD waits for Verdonk’s reaction to voters’ support

Controversial immigration minister Rita Verdonk is expected to announce her political plans today following Monday’s revelation that she won a spectacular 43% of her Liberal (VVD) party votes in last week’s general election. Party leader and arch rival Mark Rutte won 38% of the votes.

Political observers fear Verdonk’s public support – it is the first time the number two on any party’s election list has won more votes than the party leader – will lead to a new internal strife within the VVD. The Volkskrant today quotes insiders as saying that the situation is ‘very inflammable’.
And the Financieele Dagblad suggests that Verdonk’s ‘triumphant’ reaction to the news that she had beaten Rutte in terms of voter support has only increased speculation as to her plans, adding that these are ‘difficult to anticipate’.
Verdonk said yesterday she would let the results sink in before giving a giving her reaction. This is expected today.
Just before the summer Rutte narrowly beat Verdonk in the race for party leadership. However the bitter struggle between the two camps has deeply divided the party which lost almost a quarter of its MPs in last week’s election. Nevertheless he was re-elected by VVD MPs, including Verdonk, last week.
Rutte said Verdonk’s popularity is evidence that VVD voters back the strict immigration policy of the outgoing Christian Democrat/VVD coalition. But he said the outcome of the preferential votes do not affect his leadership of the party. Verdonk won 620,555 preferential votes (good for 10 seats). Rutte won 553,200 (over eight seats).

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