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'Teflon Mark': Dutch PM Rutte reaches key milestone

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By AP & Euronews
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte points when joking with the media while waiting for the arrival of India's President Ram Nath Kovind in The Hague, Netherlands.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte points when joking with the media while waiting for the arrival of India's President Ram Nath Kovind in The Hague, Netherlands.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File

Mark Rutte became the longest-serving Dutch prime minister on Tuesday, after being in office for almost 12 years.

He first became prime minister in the Netherlands in October 2010 and is known by some as "Teflon Mark" because of his ability to survive scandals.

“It’s the greatest job in the world, an unbelievable honour. I must say that there are now a large number of puzzles on my desk, but these things happen,” Rutte said late last month as Dutch politics entered its summer recess.

The 55-year-old centre-right PM leads the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), which despite declining in recent polls, remains the largest party in Dutch politics.

Rutte is now leading his fourth coalition government.

“Basically he became prime minister by default because of the failure of others not because of his own achievements — just because the other ones collapsed more than the VVD did,” political scientist André Krouwel of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, told AP.

That has helped Rutte retain Dutch politics' top job despite damaging crises, including a scandal involving thousands of young families being plunged into debt and despair after being wrongfully accused of child benefit fraud.

Rutte's third coalition resigned because of the scandal. But he bounced back to lead the VVD to victory in a general election weeks later in March 2021.

He is seen in some quarters as too slick and has been accused in parliament of lying to lawmakers, but at the same time he's seen as an efficient leader who can make things happen, Krouwel said.

"These two elements ... — and I think they’re both true — make him, I think, a difficult player to beat," he said.

The previous longevity record of 4,310 days in office was set by Ruud Lubbers, a Christian Democrat who led the Netherlands from Nov. 4, 1982, until Aug. 22, 1994.

Rutte is the second longest-serving elected leader in the 27-nation European Union, trailing only Hungary’s Viktor Orban.

“For me, the decisive factor is: Do I have the ideas, the energy? Is my mouth watering on Friday morning when the Cabinet meeting starts to begin solving problems? As long as I have that, I would like to continue,” Rutte said.