- Category: News
- Created on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 14:02
- Written by Amsterdam Herald
Two years after taking up the post, the 64-year-old former Amsterdam mayor admitted he was unable to turn the “unfavourable tide” in the PvdA’s favour.
Though seen as one of the party’s intellectual heavyweights, Cohen has suffered from a poor public image and watched his party go into freefall in the opinion polls in recent months.
The latest survey from leading Dutch pollster Maurice de Hond showed the party would slump from 30 seats to 14, making it the fifth-largest parliamentary group, if an election were to be held now.
Cohen has been widely criticised in recent weeks for a lack of leadership and failing to rise above the populist dogfight between Geert Wilders on the right and Socialist Party (SP) leader Emile Roemer on the left.
“In the end it’s not about me,” Cohen told a press conference on Monday when he announced he was stepping down.
“It’s about whether I was and am capable of offering enough resistance. I feel I have not succeeded enough in doing that. If that fails, there is no sense in going on.”
Cohen said he had not regretted his decision to take on the party leadership and called for a “coalition of goodwill” to stand up to the hardline tendencies of the centre-right government and Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV), which has an agreement to prop up the cabinet.
In June 2010 the PvdA were one seat away from being the largest party in the 150-seat lower house (Tweede Kamer), which would have made Cohen the front-runner to become prime minister.
Instead he has led an opposition movement that has been unable to make ground on the minority coalition, even as the country veered towards recession at the end of last year.
With most Dutch voters expecting new elections before the end of the year, the worry among PvdA members is that the party would enter the campaign with a leader marked by failure.
The final straw may have been a survey of PvdA MPs for De Telegraaf last week, which found that about half of his colleagues believed he should quit, despite Cohen’s insistence that the whole party was behind him.