Jan Marijnissen resigned on Tuesday afternoon as leader of the Socialist party SP on health grounds.
At a specially convened press conference, Marijnissen said that after 14 years in the post ‘it is time to take things a bit easier and make way for someone else’. He will remain an MP.
Reactions to the news have come from both ends of the political spectrum. Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, a Christian Democrat, said Marijnissen gave the SP its identity and put the party on the map. GroenLinks party leader Femke Halsema said he is a great loss to left-wing politics, while anti-immigration party leader Geert Wilders said Marijnissen is someone who stands up for the common man.
Marijnissen entered parliament in May 1994 with Remi Poppe, forming a two-man party in the second chamber. He has been party chairman since then. Under his leadership the SP grew to its present 25 seats.
The 55-year-old, who entered politics in 1975 as a local councillor in his birthplace of Oss, had the chance to join a coalition government after the last election in 2006. He held talks with informateur Rein Jan Hoekstra but could not agree terms for the SP to take part in the government.
The Labour party accused him of walking away from the negotiations too quickly, but Marijnissen said later that Labour refused to get behind the SP at the time, preferring to govern with the Christian Democrats.
Marijnissen now wants to spend time ‘considering the problems of the 21st century, like the greying population and globalisation’. Who will succeed him is not yet known.
When he took time off recently with heart problems and a slipped disc, Agnes Kant stepped into the breach. Other names being considered are financial specialist Ewoud Irrgang, former senator Ronald van Raak and foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel.
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