Mark Rutte ( [ˈmɑrk ˈrʏtə]; born 14 February 1967) is a Dutch politician who has been the Prime Minister of the Netherlands since 14 October 2010 and the Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie - VVD) since 31 May 2006. He previously served as Undersecretary for Social Affairs and Employment from 22 July 2002 to 17 June 2004, and Undersecretary for Education, Culture and Science from 17 June 2004 until 27 June 2006, when he was elected to succeed Jozias van Aartsen as the new VVD Leader.
At the 2006 general election, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy under Rutte lost six seats and he became opposition leader. At the following general election in 2010, the VVD won the highest number of votes cast, resulting in their occupying 31 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. After a long formation period, Rutte became Prime Minister and formed a Cabinet. When he was sworn in on 14 October 2010, he became the first liberal Prime Minister of the Netherlands in 92 years. He offered his government's resignation on 23 April 2012 after an impasse in talks on an austerity budget, prompting a general election in which the VVD won its highest number of seats ever, which led to a coalition being formed with the VVD and Labour Party. On 5 November 2012, the Second Rutte cabinet was installed by Queen Beatrix.
Mark Rutte was born on 14 February 1967 in The Hague in the Dutch province of South Holland in a Dutch Reformed family as the youngest child of Izaak Rutte (5 October 1909 – 22 April 1988), a merchant, and Hermina Cornelia Dilling (born 13 November 1923), a secretary. Izaak Rutte worked for a trading company first as importer in the Dutch East Indies and later as director in the Netherlands.
Rutte attended a gymnasium high school, specialising in the arts, from 1979 until 1985. Although his original ambition was to attend the conservatory and become a concert pianist, he went to study history at Leiden University, where he obtained a MA degree in History in 1992. He combined his studies with a position on the board of the Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy, the youth organisation of the VVD, of which he was chairperson between 1988 and 1991.
After his studies he entered the business world, working as a manager for Unilever and Calve. Until 1997 he was part of the human resource-department of Unilever and played a leading role in several reorganisations. Between 1997 and 2000 he was personnel manager for Van den Bergh Nederland, a subsidiary of Unilever. In 2000 he became a member of the Corporate Human Resources Group. And since 2002 he was director of Human Resources for IgloMora Groep, another subsidiary of Unilever.
Between 1993 and 1997 he was a member of the national board of the VVD. He also served as a member of the VVD candidate committee for the general election of 2002. He was himself elected as a member of parliament in 2003.
Rutte served as Undersecretary in the Social Affairs and Employment ministry from 22 July 2002 to 17 June 2004 in the first and second Balkenende cabinets. He was responsible for fields including bijstand (municipal welfare) and arbeidsomstandigheden (Occupational safety and health). After the 2003 elections Rutte was briefly also a member of the House of Representatives, between 30 January and 27 May 2003.
Rutte served as Undersecretary for Higher Education and Science, within the Education, Culture and Science ministry, replacing Annette Nijs, from 17 June 2004 to 27 June 2006 in the second Balkenende cabinet. In office, Rutte showed particular interest in making the Dutch higher education system more competitive internationally, by trying to make it more market oriented (improving the position of students as consumers in the market for education). He would have been succeeded by former The Hague alderman Bruno Bruins. Before Bruins could be sworn into office, the second Balkenende cabinet fell. In the subsequently formed third Balkenende cabinet Bruins succeeded Rutte as Undersecretary.
Rutte resigned as Undersecretary in June 2006 to return to the House of Representatives, and he soon became the Parliamentary leader of the VVD. Rutte became an important figure within the VVD leadership. He was campaign manager for the 2006 municipal elections.
After the resignation of Jozias van Aartsen, the VVD having lost in the 2006 Dutch municipal election, the party held an internal election for lijsttrekker, in which Rutte competed against Rita Verdonk and Jelleke Veenendaal. On 31 May 2006, it was announced that Mark Rutte would be the next lijsttrekker of the VVD. He was elected by 51.5% of party members. Rutte's candidacy was backed by the VVD leadership, including the party board, and many prominent politicians such as Frank de Grave, former minister of Defence, Ivo Opstelten, the mayor of Rotterdam and Ed Nijpels, the Queen's Commissioner of Friesland. The Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy, the VVD's youth wing, of which he had been chairperson, also backed him. During the elections he promised "to make the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy a party for everyone and not just of the elite". His youthful appearance has been likened to the successful former leader of the Labour Party, Wouter Bos.
Rutte said that the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party was a party "the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy could do business with". He had also stated that with the social security ideas of the Labour Party, which he called too conservative, it was unlikely that the VVD would cooperate or form a coalition after the elections.
For the 2006 general election, the VVD campaign with Rutte as leader did not get off to a good start. Rutte received criticism from within his own party for the campaign. Rutte was said to be overshadowed by his own party members Rita Verdonk and Gerrit Zalm, as well as being unable to penetrate between Wouter Bos and Jan Peter Balkenende, who were generally seen as the prime candidates to become the next Prime Minister. On 27 November, it became known that Rita Verdonk managed to obtain more votes than Mark Rutte; Rutte obtained 553,200 votes against Verdonk's 620,555.
After repeated criticisms by Rita Verdonk on the policy of the VVD, Rutte expelled her from the party's parliamentary faction on 14 September 2007.
In the 2010 general election, Rutte was once again the lijsttrekker for the VVD. The VVD won 31 seats to become the largest party in the House of Representatives for the first time ever. A long period of negotiations followed, with several personalities succeeding each other as informateur, or persons being appointed by Queen Beatrix in order to find out what coalition could be formed.
Efforts to form a coalition of liberals, Christian-democrats and socialists failed. Instead the only possibility appeared to be a center-right coalition of liberals and Christian democrats (CDA), with the outside support of the Party for Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders.
After garnering support for such a coalition, Rutte was appointed as formateur (prime minister-designate) on 8 October 2010. Rutte then appointed the ministers, with Maxime Verhagen (CDA) as his deputy prime minister. On 14 October, Beatrix formally invited Rutte to form a government. Later that day, Rutte presented his Cabinet team to Parliament, and it was confirmed in office by the smallest possible majority.
Rutte is the first Prime Minister since 1918 who is neither a Christian democrat nor a socialist, as well as the first liberal to hold that post since Pieter Cort van der Linden, who was Prime Minister from 1913 until 1918. He is also the first VVD Prime Minister.
In March 2012, seeking to comply with European Union requirements for the nation's deficit, Rutte began talks with coalition parties VVD and CDA and supporting party PVV on a budget for 2013, which would cut 16 billion Euros of spending. However, PVV leader Geert Wilders withdrew his party's support on April 21, stating that the budget would hurt economic growth; which led to the downfall of the government. Rutte submitted his resignation to Queen Beatrix on the afternoon of 23 April. His government lasted for 558 days, making it one of the shortest Netherlands cabinets since World War II. New elections were held on 12 September 2012.
In the 2012 general election, Rutte was the VVD's lijsttrekker for the third time. The party won 41 seats and remained the largest party in the House of Representatives. On 5 November 2012, the Second Rutte cabinet was formed, a coalition cabinet with the Labour Party (PvdA).
Mark Rutte is not married. He is a member of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. He still teaches two hours a week at the Johan de Witt College in The Hague.
In 2008, Rutte wrote that the VVD wanted an inclusive, compact state where not only the "happy few" would feel comfortable.
In 2009, Rutte stated that Holocaust denial, hate speech or insulting groups in society should no longer be a criminal offense because freedom of expression should be explicitly guaranteed.