First Moroccan mayor in the Netherlands
October 17, 2008 Leave a Comment
Rotterdam City Council has voted Ahmed Aboutaleb as its mayor. The current deputy social affairs minister and member of the Labour party will be the first ever Dutch mayor of Moroccan origin. The appointment still has to be officially approved by the interior minister. Mr Aboutaleb will succeed Conservative VVD party member Ivo Opstelten, who has been in office for ten years.
Rotterdam City Council said Mr Aboutaleb is “extremely involved in local government” and “an inspiration for all Rotterdam residents”. But the small rightwing party, Leefbaar Rotterdam, with a large representation on the city’s council criticised the appointment of Mr Aboutaleb: “He lives in Amsterdam, he’s an opportunistic career climber, an Ajax supporter and worst of all, he has two passports”, said leader Ronald Sörensen.
The National Committee of Moroccans (LBM) has applauded the new appointment of Mr Aboutaleb. “The Moroccan community is writing history by providing such a large and leading city with its lord mayor”, says a spokesperson for the organisation.
Source: Radio Netherlands, 16 October 2008
Muslim Aboutaleb to be Mayor of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is getting a Muslim as mayor. Social Affairs State Secretary Ahmed Aboutaleb will succeed Ivo Opstelten in the Netherlands’ second-largest city.
Aboutaleb is a member of Labour (PvdA). The PvdA-dominated local council of Rotterdam nominated him yesterday. Home Affairs Minister Guusje ter Horst has yet to appoint him but her approval is a mere formality.
Aboutaleb, like all Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands. has both Dutch and Moroccan nationality. He combines his Muslim faith with a political style that is typically Dutch: consensus and dialogue are paramount.
Some Muslims consider him too ‘white,’ some ‘whites’ find him too soft. In reality, Aboutaleb is in the Labour (PvdA) tradition of anti-polarisation.
Aboutaleb was born in Beni Sidel, Morocco on 29 August 1961. His father was an Imam. He came to the Netherlands aged 16. In 1987, he graduated from a college (HBO) in electrical engineering and telecommunication. Instead of becoming a technician, Aboutaleb emerged as a journalist for a variety of TV broadcasters and news programmes, including NOS Radio and RTL Nieuws.
By becoming a spokesman for State Secretary Simons and Health Minister Hedy d’Ancona (1989-1994), he began his involvement in public administration. This development was strengthened when he became head of public relations at the influential Socio-Economic Council (SER), from 1994 to 1996, and manager of Communications at the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS), from 1996 to 1998.
In 1998, he became a member of the Institute for Multicultural Development (FORUM). Two yeas later, he joined the Education Council and in 2002, he became Amsterdam local council’s director of Social, Economic and Cultural Development.
In February 2004, he became Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen’s alderman for Work and Income, Education, Youth and Diversity. And in the spring of last year, he joined the national government, taking his present post of Social Affairs State Secretary. His move to Rotterdam now is certainly yet another promotion.
Aboutaleb’s election is in two ways remarkable. Of course his Islamic faith makes the appointment unique. But also, a tradition has been broken of the established parties each claiming certain cities.
It is a public secret that the procedure of electing mayors, at least in the big cities, has been a closed circuit of agreements between the established parties. According to this logic, Gerd Leers should have emerged the winner. That is because he is a member of the Christian democrats (CDA) and the CDA was going to claim Rotterdam.
Rotterdam had to go to the CDA, because The Hague went earlier to the VVD. In the third-largest city, Jozias van Aartsen (VVD) recently took over the chain of office from CDA Mayor Wim Deetman. Insiders were convinced that CDA and VVD had swapped Rotterdam and The Hague.
Amsterdam and Utrecht, the biggest and fourth city respectively, already belong to the PvdA. Now that party, struggling in the polls, will be holding the mayoral position in three of the ‘big four’ cities.
The choice for PvdA’s Aboutaleb might have been pushed by a poll conducted recently by Algemeen Dagblad. The newspaper reported Rotterdammers wanted State Secretary Nebahat Albayrak as their mayor. She was not a candidate, but like Aboutaleb, she is a Muslim, a faith that many Rotterdammers share with her.
Source: NIS News, 17 October 2008