As politicians get ready to hit the campaign trail, the papers are saying goodbye to the Teflon prime minister who, after 13 years, was beginning to show signs of wear and tear.
The NRC in its editorial calls the caretaker prime minister an “inveterate survivor”, who, canny to the last, decided to jump before he was pushed, garnering praise instead of criticism from many of his opponents.
“Whether he will be remembered as a brilliant politician time will tell”, the paper said, as it enumerated his skills as a communicator, his knack of surviving every storm until the last, his energy and charm.
But the Teflon layer that protected Rutte had become chipped and toxic following his mishandling of the aftermaths of the benefit scandal aftermath, and the Groningen compensation scheme, the paper said.
His own party distanced itself from him “creating a vacuum that may be a positive development as the Netherlands faces an election campaign with new leaders, including of other parties. That could herald a long overdue change,” the paper said.
Rutte’s departure after 13 years provides “welcome oxygen” to other politicians, the Parool commented, calling him “a tree in whose shade not many others could flourish”. No wonder the opposition parties are rejoicing, the paper said.
Much remains uncertain, however, the paper said. In particular, Pieter Omtzigt who “could easily get 30 seats” if he decides to run and the jointGroenLinks/PvdA candidate could also do well.
De Volkskrant focused on Rutte’s role in Europe where he “leaves an empty space at the conference table, with Macron, under siege at home, as the last of ‘the three Ms’” (Mark, Merkel and Macron).
“This is not good for the EU’, the paper quoted a senior EU official as saying. “Rutte was popular with his EU colleagues and that gave the Netherlands more influence than the size of the country and its GDP would normally have warranted”, he said.
Rutte, who was never a huge fan of Europe as a political ideal “became a European because he understood its significance for the country,” the paper said. Although Rutte has said that he is not in the market for a European role, his name will be mentioned when the posts of EU president and NATO chief become vacant, the paper concluded.
“The king is dead….. now what?”, Trouw started its editiorial. Rutte has “left The Hague in disarray and has plunged the country and his party in great uncertainty”, is the paper’s dramatic take. The election will be the most unpredictable in years, the paper said.
The most likely scenario will be that the political landscape will fracture into “three blocks of roughly the same size: left, centre right and populist right. A stable government will have to consist of two of these blocks requiring political flexibility to compromise.” Trouw wonders if that will be possible without the man who had “turned [flexibility] into an art”.
“It’s the end of an era”, the Telegraaf headlines, waxing sentimental over Rutte’s personal humility. “Good relationships were the cement of his time in office”, the paper said. “It was not a trick, it was his life. His parents taught him not put himself above others.
“He thought the security measures during his first cabinet were exaggerated, he was ashamed of his official car which would have the motor running in his street because it would bother the neighbours. He stepped out of his car the moment he heard his driver’s wife was in hospital: he could walk home. Angry citizens? He gave his phone number to strangers”, the Telegraaf said.
The FD describes how Rutte wrong-footed his opponents who, after he dropped his bombshell, hastily regrouped to dilute harsh criticism with praise for his leadership.
But the mask slipped slightly and uncharacteristically, the FD said, when the prime minister upbraided D66 MP Jan Paternotte who asked him if the asylum debate really had “really been worth it”, by accusing him of “framing” and “not playing the game”.
Meanwhile, caretaker justice minister Dilan Yeşilgöz may be ready to fill Rutte’s shoes, the paper quoted a prominent member of the VVD, because she shares Rutte’s ability to “bridge divides”.
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