VVD in crisis, Verdonk ponders future

There is growing speculation that the decision to expel the outspoken former integration minister Rita Verdonk from the right-wing Liberal party (VVD) could result in Mark Rutte losing his position as party leader.

A splinter group of VVD members calling themselves the Liberaal Network intends to call for Rutte to step down as party leader and reinstate Verdonk at Saturday’s party congress, reports today’s Volkskrant.
Verdonk’s advisor Ed Sinke told the media that there could be an attempt to mend the break between Verdonk and the VVD and mentioned former party leaders Frits Bolkestein and Frans Weisglas as potential mediators.
Verdonk was due to let the VVD know on Friday what her plans are now that she has been thrown out of the party but ANP news service reported this afternoon that she would ask for extra time. She is unlikely to make a decision before Saturday’s party congress.
The VVD is in crisis following the decision to expel Verdonk after she again criticised the party leadership despite agreements that she would refrain from doing so.
VVD party members are split on the issue. Many feel Rutte’s decision to expel her will be disastrous for the party’s popularity while others said it was inevitable given her continual challenges to his leadership.
Verdonk has ruled out joining Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration PVV party but left it open as to whether she would set up a new party. She won 620,000 votes in November’s general election which is good for nine seats in parliament.

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