Mark Rutte equals record for longest sitting Dutch Prime Minister
As of today, Prime Minister Mark Rutte equals Ruud Lubbers’ record as the longest serving Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Cabinet troubles, crises, and a plane crash: a lot has happened in the Netherlands under the leadership of “Teflon Mark.”
On Monday, Rutte has been Prime Minister for 4,309 days. The first Cabinet led by former CDA Prime Minister Lubbers took office on 4 November 1982. On 22 August 1994, then PvdA leader Wim Kok took over premiership from Lubbers after 4,309 days.
As the longest-serving Prime Minister, Rutte set several questionable records, according to research by the Parliamentary Documentation Center of Leiden University. For example, he holds the record for most motions of no confidence and/or censure. MPs withdrew their trust in the Prime Minister or disapproved of his policy no fewer than 104 times. He also headed the longest-serving outgoing Cabinet. Because the Rutte IV formation took so long, Rutte’s third Cabinet reigned for 360 days after its resignation.
Rutte’s career as Prime Minster started in 2010 with a Cabinet consisting only of the VVD and CDA. The two parties concluded a tolerance agreement with the PVV for a narrow majority in parliament. In 2012, Rutte's first Cabinet fell due to disagreements with the PVV over billions in budget cuts. Years later, Rutte looked back on this “experiment” on the television program WNL as the biggest mistake of his career as Prime Minister. PVV leader Geert Wilders participated for a year and a half “until it became stressful,” and Wilders “refused to take responsibility,” said Rutte.
New elections were called, and the PvdA achieved a monstrous victor. VVD leader Rutte joined forces with the labor party, and Rutte II was a fact. It would be a decisive period for Rutte’s premiership, above all because of the downing of flight MH17. All 298 passengers on their way from Schiphol to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur died, including 196 Dutch.
The MH17 disaster made a big impression on the Prime Minister. “I am shocked. I am really devastated,” Rutte said shortly after the disaster. In 2016, on the VPRO program Zomergasten, Rutte called the downing of the flight “the worst I have experienced in my job.”
During Rutte’s most recent two Cabinets, the country encountered several crises. The coronavirus pandemic, the childcare allowance scandal, the debate about Pieter Omtzigt and his “function elsewhere,” and Rutte’s poor archiving of text messages were just a few of the challenges that Rutte III and IV faced and face. Nevertheless, even after the fall of his third Cabinet, the Prime Minister managed to win the parliamentary elections again.
No matter how much criticism Rutte received, his supporters continued to believe in his power as a statesman. It earned him the nickname “Teflon Mark,” according to the British BBC, “For his ability to survive scandal.”
Rutte’s fourth Cabinet is again faced with major challenges, including the nitrogen crisis and the war between Russia and Ukraine. Rutte acknowledged this in one of his recent weekly press conferences. “I must say that the number of puzzles on my desk right now is quite large.” He said he could accept that people in the media occasionally wonder aloud whether he is past his expiration date as the country’s leader. “I’ve learned to live with that question being asked every now and then.”
Reporting by ANP