Next Dutch PM chases the "American dream"
Dutch Prime Minister-elect Mark Rutte, leader of the rightist, pro-business VVD party set to lead the next government, is a staunch believer in economic liberalism and the "American dream".
The 43-year-old bachelor who holds Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill up as examples, is set to become the first premier from a Dutch liberal party since 1918.
"Mark Rutte is a Dutchman with an American dream", his friend of 20 years, Derk Jan Epping, is quoted as saying in a new biography published Thursday, entitled "Just for politics".
"For him, the strength of a city like New York or a country like the United States, is that people who are born with nothing can truly make something of their lives," added Eric Trinthamer, a former spokesman of the Dutch liberal caucus in parliament.
The authors of the book, Dutch journalists Martijn van der Kooij and Dirk van Harten, paint a portrait of a man who wants more than most things to drastically reduce state spending in a bid to reverse the public deficit.
For a long time, the leader of the VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), which calls itself the Dutch liberal party, battled an image of rogue boyishness as he groomed himself for the role of statesman.
"I am 43, the same age as (British Prime Minister) David Cameron," he said in a newspaper interview in the run-up to June 9 parliamentary elections, adding: "I am a serious guy".
"He has an extremely positive outlook: he always sees the good side of things," former VVD parliamentary leader Gerrit Zalm has said of his successor.
"He is relaxed in his social relations, not at all formal, but he is firm and rigorous in dealing with the issues" of politics, VVD senate chairman Uri Rosenthal told AFP about the next premier.
Rutte was born in an upper-class suburb in the seat of government, The Hague, where he grew up as the youngest of seven children. He dreamed as a youngster of becoming a pianist.
His father's first wife died in a Japanese internment camp in Indonesia during World War II. He then married her sister, the politician's mother.
Rutte first became involved in politics while studying at the University of Leiden, where he obtained a degree in Dutch history in 1992. During this period, he became the national president of the liberal youth movement JOVD, which later became the VVD's youth wing.
He joined Unilever in 1992, became personnel manager five years later, and worked for the company for 10 years during which time he was also a member of the VVD executive committee.
Deputy minister for social affairs from 2002 to 2004 and then of education until 2006, Rutte dreams of an "ownership economy" in the style of Thatcher.
Rutte lives alone and describes himself as a hard worker.
He scoffs at social conventions, according to his biographers, only ever drives second-hand cars, uses an old cellphone and continues to live in an apartment he bought as a student.
On the sidelines of his political career, Rutte gives Dutch and sociology courses at a secondary school in the Hague every Friday.
"I want to continue to do this if I become Prime Minister. But it will have to be on another day of the week, as the Cabinet meets on Fridays," he said during the election campaign.
© 2010 AFP