Daily Israel Report

Will Holland's Next Prime Minister Be Jewish?

Amsterdam’s former Jewish mayor is the people’s top choice for Holland’s next prime minister, a new opinion poll shows.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 3/17/2010, 12:28 PM / Last Update: 3/17/2010, 12:37 PM

Holland may elect a Jew to become its next prime minister in its upcoming national elections slated for June, according to a new opinion poll quoted this week in a report published by the European Jewish Press.The newly-resigned Jewish mayor of Amsterdam, 62-year-old Marius Job Cohen led the field, the news service reported.

Cohen, who was compelled to resign his position as mayor in order to run for office, became the new head of the Dutch Labor party last Friday after Wouter Bos, his predecessor, resigned. The party brought down the government last month when it pulled out of the coalition led by Christian-Democrat Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende in a dispute over Holland’s military presence in Afghanistan.

Some 52 percent of the respondents to the survey said they preferred Cohen over Balkenende and anti-Islam right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders. Other media reports have also indicated that Cohen is expected to make a strong showing at the polls with the slogan, “Authoritarian but enlightened.”

This is not Cohen’s first run as a candidate for prime minister; he also previously ran as the Dutch Labor Party’s candidate for the post in 2003.

Prior to becoming mayor in January 2001, Cohen served as State Secretary for Justice, Chair of the Parliamentary Party in the Senate, and State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science.

He has an undergraduate degree in law from the University of Groningen, and a doctorate from Leiden University. He also chaired a commission that established a faculty of law at Maastricht University, and served as a professor, and then a rector at the institution.

Cohen was named 2005 “European Hero” by TIME Magazine for his outreach to the Muslim community after tensions following the November 2004 murder in Amsterdam of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic jihadist. His slogan for administration of the city was “keeping things together.”

Cohen was born in the northern Dutch city of Haarlem to Adolf Emile Cohen, a history professor, and Hetty Coster, both members of the local Jewish community. He has one elder brother, and also has two children.