Mark Rutte: the current Staatssecretaris for Higher Education and Sciences was the first to put forth his candidacy. His candidacy is backed by the VVD leadership, including the party board and many prominent politicians such as Frank de Grave, former minister of Defence, Ivo Opstelten, the mayor of Rotterdam and Ed Nijpels, the Queen's Commissioner of Friesland. Rutte is the former chairman of the VVD's youth organisation, the JOVD and is also backed by them. After studying history and leading the JOVD Rutte became manager for Unilever. In 2002 he became staatssecretaris for Social Affairs. After a cabinet reshuffle he became staatssecretaris of Higher Education and Science. Rutte is generally perceived to be on the progressive side of the VVD. He promised "to make the VVD a party for everyone and not just of the elite". His youthful and charismatic appearance have been likened to the successful leader of the PvdA Wouter Bos. Rutte was coordinator of the municipal election campaign of the VVD, which caused Van Aartsen's downfall.
Jelleke Veenendaal: she quite unexpectedly put forth her candidacy. She has only been in House of Representatives for three years. Before that she worked as medical analyst and a management consultant. In parliament she has been a backbencher. She entered the race when only Rutte was candidate, claiming that without a counter-candidate, the race would be a sham. She entered the race without consulting the party board, though she did consult her husband. She was generally seen as having no chance to win the elections.
Rita Verdonk: the current Minister without Portfolio for Immigration and Integration was last to put forth her candidacy, after a lot of attention from the media. Her candidacy is not backed by the VVD leadership, but she is backed by former VVD-leader and EU-commissioner Frits Bolkestein. She is often polled as the most popular minister within the cabinet and is backed by many individual VVD members. Verdonk entered politics in 2003, when she became minister, she had only been member of the VVD for three years, she had been active within the Pacifist Socialist Party and had voted for the Labour party before 2002. Verdonk is generally seen to be representative to the conservative and populist wing of the VVD. She has proposed cutting taxes and has appealed to the entrepreneurial spirit. She is known as Iron Rita, for her stances on immigration and integration and her steadfast politics. She has recruited former Kay van der Linden as her campaign manager, who was also involved in Pim Fortuyn's 2002 election campaign. Verdonk has never been member of parliament and could therefore according to Dutch law not enter parliament if she would have won the internal election.
An independent committee oversaw the elections. 28,788 people voted in this election, which was 74% of the eligible VVD members. They voted mostly by telephone and via Internet. The full results were presented on May 31, 2006, in Hotel Okura in Amsterdam, where it was announced that Mark Rutte obtained 51.5% of the vote and won the election. Rita Verdonk came in second, with 45.5% of the vote. Jelleke Veenendaal obtained 3.0% of the vote.
It is generally expected that Mark Rutte will step down as staatssecretaris and become fractievoorzitter of the VVD parliamentary party because according to the VVD's Liberal Manifesto the party's leader should either be Prime Minister of the Netherlands or chairman of the party's parliamentary party.