Opstelten to chair Liberal VVD

Rotterdam mayor Ivo Opstelten has been elected new chairman of the right-wing Liberal party VVD. Opstelten, 64, took 67% of the vote, beating Brabant provincial councillor Onno Hoes.

Opstelten immediately set a target of winning at least 35 seats in the next general election in 2011. The party currently has 21 seats in the 150-seat parliament and is below that in the latest opinion polls.
Opstelten called for ‘sharp’ action to bring back VVD voters who have migrated to the anti-immigration parties PVV and TON. He called on the party to focus on six themes: security, integration, economic growth, the environment, education and healthcare.
He pledged not to get in the way of VVD MPs and their parliamentary leader Mark Rutte. ‘ They must have the room to establish a proper profile,’ he said. ‘But I am not out of the game. My job is to keep both MPs and the party as a whole on their toes.’
Opstelten will resign as Rotterdam mayor on January 1 2009. The party chairmanship is an unpaid position.

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