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Amsterdam Mayor Cohen returns to lead the Labour Party

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM – Job Cohen, a former academic, Senator and junior cabinet member in the national portfolios of Education and Justice, has suddenly resigned his mayor’s post in the Dutch capital to assume the leadership of the Dutch Labour Party PvdA. The 62-year old was asked by his party to declare his candidacy for the post from which Wouter Bos (46) wanted to resign to spend more time with his young family. No other candidates had declared an interest and filed by the cut-off time, leaving the field entirely to Cohen who still must be confirmed at an April party congress. The reentry into national politics by this very capable statesman-like personality had an immediate effect on the party’s rating in the opinion polls: it shot up from a lagging also ran to a first place position, overtaking the Christian Democratic Appeal, Wilders’ PVV, the conservative liberal VVD and the progressive liberal D66. A bridge builder, Cohen is seen as one who will be able to reach out to Wilders’ constituency of disaffected voters. The shift in leadership is part of the municipal election fall-out, which was seen as a confidence vote on national politics. Besides the Labour Party losses, the Christian Democratic Appeal also lost ground. The significant gains of the unaffiliated local interest groups were noted, pointing to an accelerating erosion of voter loyalty to national parties. These election results also pushed hard line Socialist Party leader Agnes Kant to resign and gave cues to other politicians how to focus their plans now that a national general election has been called for June 9. Prominent Christian Democrat personalities will drop out, including Traffic Minister Camiel Eurlings and Second Chamber faction leader Wim van Geels. The retirement count of Second Chamber members had climbed to 27 at press time. A number of (caretaker or former) ministers from the Balkenende cabinet also plan to leave politics.