Pieter van Geel, the junior environment minister, is being tipped as the new parliamentary leader of the Christian Democrat party following the sudden announcement this morning that economic affairs minister Joop Wijn is to leave politics.
There is widespread speculation that Wijn is leaving the party because he is being pressured to accept the job of parliamentary leader but would prefer to remain in the cabinet. Wijn himself denies this. He says his political career – he became an MP in 1998 – was always intended to be temporary and intends now to return to business.
ANP quotes sources within the CDA as saying that Van Geel is the most likely candidate for the job. They add that the new parliamentary leader must in any case be Catholic as the CDA prime minister, Jan Pieter Balkenende, is Protestant.
Maxime Verhagen, who was CDA parliamentary leader for the last four years and is a Catholic, is almost certain to be foreign minister in the new cabinet, said ANP.
Other potential candidates are education minister Maria van der Hoeven, junior economic affairs minister Karin van Gennip and junior defence minister Cees van der Knaap. All have a Catholic background.
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