Drugs, integrity scandals as VVD campaign kicks off

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No image availableNL Times

The VVD will start its election campaign under a dark cloud of integrity scandals. Investigations into two VVD parliamentarians threaten to overshadow everything else. The campaign starts tonight with Prime Minister Mark Rutte on TV at Jinek.

Publicity around Mark Verheijen's unjustified declarations has been haunting the liberal party for weeks. Verheijen is now also facing criminal charges from Limburg company Taurus for corruption during is time as councilor in Venlo. Earlier this week it also came to light that the parliamentarian  arranged a free election party for Prime Minister Mark Rutte in 2012 at the Floriade in Venlo.

The latest poll by Maurice de Hond showed that nearly half of Dutch voters think that Verheijen should step down, even if it turns out that he is not guilty of corruption. According to the Volkskrant, some members of the Kamer faction have also asked Verheijen to resign from his position in the Tweede Kamer (lower house of parliament). Verheijen has only taken a temporary leave of absence, pending the results of the integrity commission's investigation into his declarations.

Yesterday the party received another blow. Kathalijne de Kruif, who was suspended as faction leader of the municipality Stichtse Vecht last week amidst suspicions than she leaked confidential information to a fellow party member, was arrested. She is among a group of 8 suspects arrested on suspicion of cannabis cultivation and money laundering. She is currently only allowed to have contact with her lawyer.

Campaign leader Klaas Dijkhoff knows that a lot of time and effort will have to be put in now to get the party's campaign out of the shadow of these scandals, Volkskrant reports. For this reason the party is hastily trying to get the internal integrity commission's findings regarding Verheijen released today.

This is the first time since 2006 that the VVD is starting its campaign with trouble overhead. In 2006 the party struggled with the aftermath of the power struggle between  Mark Rutte and Rita Verdonk.