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Bicycle enthusiast Rutte rides in record time as Prime Minister of the Netherlands

#Bicycle #enthusiast #Rutte #rides #record #time #Prime #Minister #Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte set a new time record in the saddle on Tuesday, becoming the Netherlands’ longest-serving head of state with 4,311 days in power.

Rutte, who is known for riding his trusty bike to work, surpassed the previous mark of Ruud Lubbers, who was Prime Minister from 1982 to 1994.

The leader of the centre-right VVD party – also known as the “Teflon Mark” because of numerous scandals that he does not remember – took office in October 2010.

“I feel like I’m almost halfway there,” Rutte, 55, joked during a news conference last month when asked about the 11-year, nine-month milestone.

“It’s the best job in the world.”

The lanky leader kept a low profile on Tuesday as he surpassed Lubbers’ previous record without making any official comment.

Rutte is also the second longest-serving EU leader behind Hungary’s Viktor Orban – with whom he has repeatedly clashed over social and economic issues.

Last month, Rutte said he was still motivated to keep going, adding that “the number of mysteries that are on the desk now is quite large,” including inflation and the war in Ukraine.

But a recent opinion poll for the Dutch public broadcaster found that eight in ten people believed it had “passed its sell-by date”.

At home, Rutte has built an image as a reserved leader who is single, bikes to meetings with foreign leaders and, until recently, used an old Nokia cellphone.

His backroom political skills have put him at the head of four consecutive coalition governments – but he has had several narrow escapes.

His previous government was forced to resign en masse in 2021 over a child benefits scandal, while he narrowly survived a no-confidence vote later that year.

Rutte’s biggest challenge now comes from angry protests from street blockers opposed to government climate plans that could force some farms to close.

In Europe, he has also touted his reputation as the leader of a group of frugal northern nations looking to limit public spending.

This earned him the nickname “Mr. No” for his opposition to bailout plans for the southern states, which have been hard hit by the Covid pandemic.

Rutte’s predecessor as the longest-serving Dutch prime minister, Lubbers, had a similarly sober and pragmatic style, Dutch commentators said.

Lubbers later became the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and died in 2018 at the age of 78.

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