Learn more about Mark Rutte
|Born||February 14, 1967
The Hague, Netherlands
Mark Rutte (born The Hague, February 14, 1967) is a Dutch People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) politician and parliamentary leader for that party in the Dutch Parliament. He has been elected lijsttrekker for the VVD in the Dutch general election, 2006.
 Carreer before politics
Rutte attended the gymnasium, specialising in the arts from 1979 till 1985. He continued to study history at the University of Leiden until 1992, although his original ambition was to attend the conservatory and become a concert pianist. He combined his studies with a position in the board of the JOVD, 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 manager for Unilever and Calvé. Until 1997 he was part of the human resource-department of Unilever and played a leading role in several reorganisations. Between 1993 and 1997 he was member of the national board of the VVD. Between 1997 and 2000 he was personal manager for Van den Bergh Nederland, a daughter of Unilever. In 2000 he became member of the Corporate Human Resources Group. And since 2002 he was director of Human Resources for IgloMora Groep, another daughter of Unilever. He also served as member of the VVD candidate committee, for the 2002 Dutch general election.
 Political career
In 2002 Rutte was appointed staatssecretaris for Social Affairs and Employment in the first Balkenende cabinet, a post which he held after the 2003 elections. He was responsible for fields including bijstand (municipal welfare) and arbeidsomstandigheden (Occupational safety and health). After the 2003 elections Rutte was briefly member of the Tweede Kamer, between January 30 and May 27 2003.
On June 17 2004 Rutte was appointed staatssecretaris of Higher Education and Science, replacing Annette Nijs. When he was asked to replace her he had little choice: "Gerrit (Gerrit Zalm, the VVD vice-prime minister) is not of the department of variables. I didn't have a choice. Furthermore, it's also very exciting". Rutte became an important figure within the VVD-leadership. He was campaign manager for the 2006 municipal elections.
In office, Rutte has shown particular interest in making the Dutch higher education system more competitive internationally, by trying to make it more market oriented (by improving the position of students as consumers in the market for education).
 2006 leadership election
After the resignation of Jozias van Aartsen after the VVD loss in the 2006 Dutch municipal election, the VVD held an internal election for lijsttrekker, where Rutte competed against Rita Verdonk and Jelleke Veenendaal. On 31 May 2006, it was announced that Mark Rutte will be the next lijsttrekker of the VVD. He was elected by 51.5% of the VVD 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 Defense, Ivo Opstelten, the mayor of Rotterdam and Ed Nijpels, the Queen's Commissioner of Friesland. The JOVD, the VVD's youth wing, of which he was chairperson, also backed by him. During the elections he promised "to make the VVD a party for everyone and not just of the elite". His youthful and charismatic appearance have been likened to the successful leader of the Labour party, Wouter Bos.
On accepting the role of candidate-lijsttrekker, Rutte has made clear that he wishes to change the face of the VVD, into one where everyone, not just the "happy few" feels comfortable. He has also stated that with the current social security ideas of the Labour Party, which he called too conservative, it is unlikely that they will cooperate or form a coalition after the elections. More recently, he has stated that he felt that the CDA party (the current coalition partner) was a party "the VVD could do bussines with". However, if and how the VVD will be represented in the next coalition, will all depend on the results of the elections.
On 28 June 2006 Rutte stood down as staatssecretaris and returned to parliament as parliamentary leader of the VVD. As staatssecretaris, 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 third Balkenende cabinet Bruins succeeded Rutte after all, as staatssecretaris.
 2006 Dutch general election
For the Dutch general election, 2006, 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. <ref name="kritiekrutte">Onvrede binnen VVD over Rutte, Algemeen Dagblad, November 1, 2006</ref> 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 are generally seen as the prime candidates to become the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands. On November 27 it became known that Rita Verdonk managed to obtain more votes than Mark Rutte: Rutte obtained 553,200 votes against Verdonk's 620,555.(<ref name="kritiekrutte"/>