MPs drop Verdonk, stick with Liberals

Two MPs from the free-market Liberal party (VVD) are to stick with the party despite earlier suggestions that they might join former integration minister Rita Verdonk in setting up a splinter group.

Charlie Aptroot and Fred Teeven had both opposed the way Verdonk was expelled from the party for continually criticising the leadership.
VVD members voted by a two-thirds majority on Saturday not to get rid of parliamentary party leader Mark Rutte for his role in expelling Verdonk. Some 52% voted no to a similar motion to remove the entire party leadership.
However, members did pass another motion urging Verdonk, known for her outspoken views on integration, to remain a member of the VVD. She is currently considering her political future and it is thought most likely she will keep her seat in parliament and launch her own party.
The conference showed how strongly the party is divided over Verdonk, ANP reported. The paper says party elders such as Hans Wiegel and Frits Korthals Altes back Verdonk, while former finance minister Gerrit Zalm and former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein support her expulsion.
The role of Bolkestein, who spoke strongly in favour of Rutte, was said by several commentators to have been crucial in swinging the vote in Rutte’s favour.
The weekly politicial opinion poll by Maurice de Hond shows that the anti-immigration party PVV has most to fear from a Verdonk-led initiative. The poll shows that the PVV would take 22 seats if there was a general election tomorrow, but that total would be halved if Verdonk had her own party. The VVD is on 17 seats in the latest poll. It has 22 in the current parliament.
Meanwhile, Verdonk told the Volkskrant that Rutte had refused to make her the party’s spokesman on immigration matters. Rutte denies the charge, saying Verdonk had freely chosen the youth and education portfolio.

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