Rutte wants to continue governing after breaking the record of permanence at the head of the Netherlands | International
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A total of 4,310 days. Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister at the head of a center-right coalition, exceeds as of Tuesday the period of permanence in office of all his predecessors. On October 14, he will celebrate 12 years in the position. From this Tuesday he wins, for one day, Ruud Lubbers, who served as head of government between 1982 and 1994.
Rutte, 55, single, is a right-wing liberal. Lubbers, who died in 2018 at the age of 79, was a Christian Democrat. Both endowed with a similar energy in the art of political survival, Rutte has declared that he feels “halfway” in his work. In the Dutch context, where laws do not impose term limits on politicians, the phrase is more than just a clever outlet. For the leader, politics is a passion. In addition, he has the support of his formation, the Popular Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the largest in the country. And with the vote of the voters. Despite the fact that the youth of the party have suggested that it is time to think about a replacement, nobody seems to overshadow him at the moment.
After so many years in power, Rutte admits that he still has to learn to take criticism when things go wrong, but he also shows what has worked in his four successive governments since 2010. “He is young, he is in good health and he does not seem let there be another candidate in sight for now. And politics is his life,” says sociologist Paul Schnabel over the phone. Throughout his years in power, Rutte has collaborated with practically all the parties with parliamentary representation in the Netherlands, including, in his first government, support from the Congress of the extreme right of Geert Wilders. He has served as prime minister without a majority in the Senate, as is also the case now, and has avoided scandals and a motion of censure and another of disapproval. Both voted in April 2021, the opposition accused him in Congress of having lied during the negotiations to form the current Cabinet.
More manager than intellectual, Rutte had just won the elections in 2021 and the exploration phase of the new government pact had opened, a trial between parties that was suspended after he dropped the name of a Christian Democrat deputy as a possible minister. The politician mentioned was Peter Omtzigt, who contributed in 2020 to the block resignation of the third Rutte Cabinet due to a subsidy scandal that he pointed out as fraudsters to thousands of innocent families with foreign surnames. Omtzigt helped the Spanish lawyer Eva González Pérez to uncover the facts. Rutte was accused of suggesting that the deputy be given a ministry to reduce his ability to criticize the government’s work.
The problem of family benefits has become a collective trauma in the Netherlands that is still alive. The Government itself acknowledged in May that the Tax Agency, in charge of managing this type of financial support for childcare, “exercised institutional racism.” The scandal has had a great incidence among those affected, because alleged frauds were sought in families, mostly of immigrant origin.
During the tense parliamentary debate that gave rise to the two motions against him last year, Rutte uttered a phrase that became a joke among his compatriots, turned into a meme and printed on sweatshirts. It refers to the selective memory of him in the face of a serious setback. “I don’t have an active recollection,” he said of possibly mentioning a charge for Omtzigt.
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“Given the political fragmentation, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands is more of a manager at the head of the Council of Ministers, but not its absolute boss. What counts in the Netherlands is personal credibility. So Rutte waits for the storms to pass before moving on,” says Schnabel, explaining how the prime minister has weathered recent crises. “On a political level, the Omtzigt affair is inexcusable because trying to name him was outside of Rutte’s powers. I think he got ahead because he is a nice person and, above all, because the current fragmentation of Parliament prevents there from being a government without the VVD”, says the sociologist.
Rutte, the youngest in a family of seven children, entered politics with the youth of his party. He was first human resources manager at the multinational Unilever. Once in Congress, he served as Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Employment, and for Education. In 2010, he came to power with 31 seats, in a Parliament of 150. Now he has 34, and is facing a revolt from farmers, who do not want to bear the brunt of cutting nitrogen emissions on the basis of cutting livestock. rancher
The situation is tense and there is no agreement for now, but Rutte’s strength will be put to the test above all with the general budgets for next year, which are presented in September by a government that does not have a majority in the Senate. In 2023 there will be provincial elections, where senators are also elected. The polls will put the VVD to the test. “When there is a problem, Rutte waits and the minister in question bears responsibility,” concludes Schnabel. On the day of his most important political anniversary, the Dutch president appears “full of ideas and energy”, another of his favorite phrases.
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