VVD leadership contest: Klaas Dijkhoff won’t follow Rutte

Klaas Dijkhoff at the VVD congress last year. Photo: Bart Maat ANP

Two of the favourites to take over from Mark Rutte as leader of the right-wing Liberal party VVD have said they are not available, potentially clearing the way for justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz to step in. 

Klaas Dijkhoff, who was an MP, junior justice minister, and defence minister in previous Rutte-led administrations told television talk show Op1 on Monday night that he did not want the job. 

“Dreams are deceptive,” Dijkhoff said. “The way I see myself as a father and partner is incompatible with the image I have of what a prime minister should deliver.” 

Dijkhoff was the favourite to take over from Rutte, who announced he was stepping down on Monday, in a television viewers poll, and is widely seen as a potential vote winner.

The Netherlands is set to go to the polls to elect a new government in mid November, following the current coalition’s collapse.

Dijkhoff said he had made his position clear earlier and that leading the party was not something he planned to do for the next 14 years at least. “I have made the choice not to become a full-time politician,” he told the programme.

Edith Schippers, former health minister and currently the VVD’s leader in the senate, has also said she is not in the running for the job.

The VVD party management said on Monday that they would put forward their own candidate this week. As well as Yesilgöz, the VVD’s parliamentary party leader Sophie Hermans is also a possible candidate to take over from Rutte. 

According to the EenVandaag poll, Yesilgöz can count on the support of 75% of VVD voters and 33% of the general population consider her a potential prime minister.

The government falls: what happens next?

In addition, former MP André Bosman said on Monday he would throw his hat in the ring and compete for the leadership role. Although his chances are slim, according to insiders, it does mean the VVD will go through a leadership contest. Bosman is a former F16 fighter pilot and was an MP from 2010 to 2021. 

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