Europe

Amsterdam to have first woman mayor Halsema

Dutch former green party leader Femke Halsema (file pic 2013) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Femke Halsema was leader of the left-wing green party for several years

The Dutch city of Amsterdam has nominated former political leader Femke Halsema as its mayor, the first woman to be given the role in its history.

While most big cities in the Netherlands have had women mayors, the capital in common with Rotterdam has never been led by a woman.

A member of the left-wing green party Groenlinks, Ms Halsema said she was "happy, proud and humbled" by the nomination.

Amsterdam had its first mayor in 1343.

The nomination of Ms Halsema, 52, by the left-led city council, has to be ratified by the government and signed by the king but that is seen as a formality.

She retired from frontline politics in 2011 and succeeds Eberhard van der Laan, who died last year.

Her nomination came several months after a group of 45 prominent Amsterdam women protested in an open letter backing calls for a woman to take up the job. "For a capital city that considers itself emancipated, diverse, tolerant, gender-neutral and progressive, this is becoming embarrassing," they wrote.

There had long been talk of choosing a woman, they complained, but when the time came it had been absurdly claimed there was no suitable woman for the job.

Who is Femke Halsema?

Ms Halsema was born a 15-minute train ride away from Amsterdam in the Dutch city of Haarlem, to a social democratic family.

She studied social science at Utrecht University, specialising in criminology, before working for the Labour Party, where she was seen as a rising star.

She later switched to the left-wing green party Groenlinks, and was elected in 1998 as a member of the lower house of parliament.

Between 2002 and 2010, she was the party's leader, after which she stepped back from frontline politics.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Ms Halsema is seen here alongside Dutch political party leaders during an election debate in 2010

Since then, Ms Halsema has worked as a writer, made a television documentary series, led several research projects and chaired a number of charitable foundations.

She lives in the eastern district of Amsterdam with her partner, a documentary filmmaker, and their two children.

Femke Halsema's nomination has not been universally welcomed. Critics said she had no suitable administrative experience and 7,400 people have signed a petition against her.

Complaining about her green policies, they asked: "Do you want a mayor who stands up for your city, rather than the whole planet?"

On Wednesday, MPs representing three-quarters of the Dutch parliament proposed new legislation aimed at cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by 49% by 2030 and 95% by 2050.

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