Sigrid Kaag won’t lead D66 in upcoming elections; 3 coalition parties without a leader

D66 leader Sigrid Kaag will not lead the party in the upcoming elections. A spokesperson for the party confirmed this after reporting in Trouw. “It has put too much strain on my family,” the politician said. She is under severe threat and heavy security, which is hard on her family. That leaves three of the four coalition parties without a leader.

Kaag will continue as caretaker Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister until the next Cabinet takes office. She has yet to decide what to do next and whether it will be in the Netherlands. Her successor is also unknown. According to Trouw, the D66 will hold party leader elections soon, and candidates can come forward next week.

Expectations were high when Kaag became party leader in 2021. She wanted to become the Netherlands’ first female Prime Minister and advocated for a new administrative culture. In the elections, the politician gained five seats and made the D66 the second-largest party in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament. After a turbulent formation period, she became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the fourth and last Rutte Cabinet.

Kaag said it was her own decision to stop. She has only felt encouraged by her party D66 to continue.

Her decision has been looming for some time. At the end of May, Kaag said on the television program College Tour that her family wanted her to leave politics. “My family always comes first,” she added. The dilemma has been going through her head for a year, the politician said now.

“I’m stopping because safety and the atmosphere are an issue for me,” Kaag told Trouw. It’s not the job itself, she said. She finds that exciting and challenging, and she’s still very motivated to do it.

Kaag returned to the Netherlands in 2017 after almost 34 years abroad to become Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. She was an acclaimed diplomat. To her horror, her private life immediately fell under a magnifying glass through her marriage to a Palestinian man. She quickly denounced the political climate in the Netherlands and fought against populism and Islamophobia.

She became a favorite target for populists and conspiracy theorists. That went so far that a conspiracy theorist showed up at her home with a burning torch.

According to Kaag, the fact that she evokes so much resistance from some people says a lot about the social climate in the Netherlands. “There is misogyny, unfortunately,” she told Trouw. “Especially if women dare to stick their necks out and have a pronounced opinion.”

Three coalition parties without a leader

Kaag’s announcement means that three of the four coalition parties now don’t have a leader for the upcoming election, sparked by the Rutte IV Cabinet’s collapse on Friday. Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Monday that he wouldn’t seek re-election and wouldn’t lead the VVD. He’s leaving national politics once the new Cabinet is in office. CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra announced he wasn’t available to lead his party on the same day.

Gert-Jan Segers of the ChristenUnie is the only coalition party leader still standing.

Opposition party leaders mostly keeping their roles

Many of the opposition parties in the Tweede Kamer will continue with the same party leader in the upcoming elections. Geert Wilder remains the leader of the PVV, and Thierry Baudet of FvD. According to a spokesperson, Esther Ouwehand plans to keep leading the animal party PvdD, and she seems to be getting the green light for this from the party members. The same applies to Laurens Dassen of Volt, a spokesperson said.

Farid Azarkan has yet to decide whether he wants to lead DENK again. “The odds are 50/50,” Azarkan said when asked. At JA21, it looks like Joost Eerdmans will again be the party leader. JA21 chairman in the Senate, Annabel Nanninga, announced that she wouldn’t switch to leading the parliamentary faction. The SGP will only tell in a while who will lead the party, a spokesperson said. Kees van der Staaij has led the conservative Christian party in recent years. He is now one of the longest-serving MPs.

MP Nilufer Gundogan, who split off from Volt, will “quickly decide” about her political future, she said. Sylvana Simons has not yet said whether she will lead BIJ1 like in the previous elections.

The left-wing parties GroenLinks and PvdA want to enter the elections together. They’re currently polling their members about the idea. Jesse Klaver and Attje Kuiken are expected to remain at the helm of the parties.

Reporting by ANP and NL Times

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