VVD's Jan Anthonie Bruijn picked as new Dutch senate leader

After several rounds of voting, senators in the Netherlands selected Professor Jan Anthonie Bruijn as the new chairperson of the Eerste Kamer, the upper house of Dutch parliament. The 61-year-old professor of immunopathology at Leiden University has been involved in politics as a VVD member since 1989 when he first became a local VVD board member in hometown of Wassenaar, Zuid-Holland.

Bruijn takes the reins from VVD politican Ankie Broekers-Knol. She was tapped as justice and security secretary last month.

The Senators initally had three other candidates to choose from: Joris Backer from D66, Toine Beukering from FvD, and Ruard Ganzevoort of GroenLinks. There was no clear winner in the first two rounds, so the bottom two vote-getters were stricken from the competition. Bruijn beat the GroenLinks candidate in the final round of voting by a 34 to 28 tally, with 11 senators boycotting the vote by submitting blank ballots. It was speculated those protest votes were from far-right party FvD.

Their candidate, Beukering, had a rocky few weeks in the run-up to Tuesday's election. In an interview with the Telegraaf, Beukering said he pursued a career in the military, and now in politics, to prevent atrocities like the Holocaust in World War II ever happening again. He said that he was always baffled by how "the Jews - such brave, [combat-ready] people - were just chased into the gas chambers like docile lambs", and pledged that it would never happen again. He later apologized for this comment, calling it "awkward". 

Each candidate competing for the position had submitted their own motivation letter explaining why they should be the president of the Eerste Kamer.

D66 candidate Joris Backer started by saying that his past experience - from studying political sciences, to experience in both parliament and Senate, including four years as vice president in the Eerste Kamer - makes him well qualified for the job. He added that in the past years he regularly received and visited foreign heads of state. "The diplomacy through representation of our country at parliamentary level certainly has added value in this globalizing world." He also has the time to dedicate to the Eerste Kamer. "I live in The Hague, so I can be immediately on site. In this phase of my life, I can give all priority to this position and hereby offer as president to commit this flexible and full availability to you in the coming years."

Toine Beukering of populist party FvD believes his military experience makes him an ideal candidate for the position of Eerste Kamer president. Not only does it give him the experience needed to represent the Kamer in the Netherlands abroad - he handled multiple delegations abroad as Sous-Chef for International Military Cooperation and military adviser for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - but also handle the ceremonial and facilitating tasks of the Kamer. "Clear communication, reliability and visibility are essential." 

Jan Anthonie Bruijn (VVD) said in his letter that his work as doctor and professor in Leiden, activities in public administration and politics, and six years of experience as Senator, has made him no stranger to professionalism and efficiency. His managerial style is focused on impartiality, giving space for expression and finding connection between different groups. He promised to ensure that the Kamer remains a place of respectful debates conducted in a pleasant atmosphere. "All parties must be adequately addressed and heard. In this way, the decision making-process gets the broadest possible support. For me that touches on the core of democracy. I will be a president for all factions, large or small, established or new, and for all members of this Kamer, because there are voters behind you all."

GroenLinks candidate Ruard Ganzevoort says that his relaxed and clear managerial style is ideal to properely facilitate and manage debates by bridging political differences. His past as pastor, professor and deacon of a faculty gave him the experience to be able to represent the Kamer at ceremonial occasions and public events. His attitude of being open to ideas and criticism, and focus on creative solutions, combined with the organizational and political administrative qualities acquired as faculty director, gives him the required skills to help the Kamer become up-to-date, while preserving valuable traditions, he said. "In short, I believe that I will be able to fulfill the role of President of the Kamer in a way that is in line with what the Senate needs in the coming years: as an energetic connector, an inspiring figurehead, and as a competent and efficient director."