Dutch lower house elects Vera Bergkamp as new chair
Vera Bergkamp was elected the new chair of the Tweede Kamer on Wednesday evening, making her the fourth woman in a row to hold the position. The D66 politician entered as a candidate at the last minute, beating out the incumbent, Khadija Arib (Labour), and Martin Bosma (PVV) by a wide margin.
Shortly after the vote, Bergkamp took her new position, was given a bouquet of flowers, and she tapped the gavel for the first time as the elected voorzitter. "It's an honor and responsibility that I am really looking forward to", she said. Bergkamp spoke of the ongoing tax benefits profiling scandal, the upcoming Tweede Kamer move to a temporary facility during renovations next summer, and 17 political parties sitting in Parliament, "all in the time of coronavirus. An enormous task."
The 49-year-old Amsterdammer managed to secure 74 of the 139 valid votes cast by members of the lower house of Parliament in the first and only round of voting. Arib, who held the position for over five years, only managed to secure 38 votes. Bosma took the remaining 27 votes. Some politicians on the right and left expressed concern that a backroom deal was made to install Bergkamp, due to the last minute nature of her candidacy.
The new leader has served in the Tweede Kamer for nearly nine years. As a politician, she argued for bans on gay conversion therapy and discrimination of transgender and intersex people. She has also advocated on behalf of families that do not conform to old ideals, and for updating the legality of cannabis.
Before entering the Tweede Kamer in 2012, she also served as the leader of LGBTQ+ advocacy COC Nederland, a position she held for four years. She described herself in a BNR interview by saying, "I am a lesbian, half-Moroccan, but also a woman, a person, an Amsterdammer and a global citizen."
Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven was the first woman to hold the position, taking the job in 2002. She was succeeded by Frans Weisglas who served for three years. Gerdi Verbeet then served two terms beginning in 2006, and was followed by Anouchka van Miltenburg who resigned during a political scandal. She was succeeded on an interim basis by Arib, who then won two elections before losing the job to Bergkamp.