Mark Rutte stepping back from politics, resigns as VVD leader
Mark Rutte will not be re-elected as Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the next general election: on Monday morning, following the collapse of his cabinet on July 8, Rutte announced he was taking a step back from politics and resigning as leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).
Rutte won't run for re-election as Prime Minister
After the Dutch cabinet collapsed on Friday night, Rutte told the press that he intended to stay on as leader of the VVD, meaning he could hypothetically be re-elected as Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the next general election.
However, it seems as though this dream was not meant to be; addressing parliament on Monday morning, the demissionair Prime Minister announced he would be stepping down as the party leader. "There has been speculation in recent days about what would motivate me. The only answer is: the Netherlands," Rutte said. "My position is completely subordinate to that. On Sunday I decided that I will not be available as a leader for the VVD in the upcoming elections."
The Netherlands' 13-year-long Rutte era coming to an end
Rutte’s announcement comes after 17 years of leadership within the VVD - almost 13 of which he spent as Prime Minister. Last summer, he became the longest-serving Prime Minister in the history of the Netherlands.
Over the years, Rutte has been at the helm of four coalition governments - three of which have collapsed for various reasons, including the toeslaganaffaire. He has overseen the handling of a number of national and international issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, the housing shortage, and flight MH17.
It is not yet clear what the future holds for 56-year-old Rutte. As NOS reports, the outgoing Prime Minister says he’s not quite sure what his next steps will be - although he isn’t looking to take on a high-ranking position at NATO, which is a rumour that has been circulating for a while. In spite of his demanding job, Rutte has continued to teach weekly social studies classes at a school in The Hague: “Maybe I’ll do that for a few days,” he speculated.
It’s also not clear what this decision will mean for the future of the VVD - and Dutch politics as a whole. The VVD will now have to embark on a mission to elect a new leader after almost two decades under Rutte.
Dutch MPs respond to Rutte's resignation
The end of Rutte’s era in government has been met with generally respectful - but also relieved - responses from MPs. "We were politically like water and fire, but I am convinced that he wanted the best for the Netherlands. I have a lot of respect for what he has done in all those years. He was a huge workhorse,” Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), told NOS.
Caroline van der Plas, leader of the BoerBurgerBeweging, or Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB), was surprised by Rutte’s decision: "He was a very hard worker, but he did not always handle it well. He is not someone who quickly admits a mistake.” Meanwhile, Kees van der Staaij from the Reformed Political Party (SGP) said Rutte had “clearly left his mark on Dutch politics.”
Thumb: Jeroen Meuwsen Fotografie via Shutterstock.com.