Mark Rutte became the longest-serving prime minister of the Netherlands

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by Toby Sterling

Amsterdam (Reuters) – Mark Root became the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the Netherlands on Tuesday, a testament to his energy for the job – as well as his honed political survival skills in his 12-year tenure.

“I think I’m reaching the halfway point,” Root quipped at his most recent news conference on July 15, before going on summer vacation.

A veteran conservative on the European political scene, Rutte, 55, has faced more than a dozen domestic crises. Many Dutch voters say they are tired of his leadership – but there is no clear alternative.

“It’s one thing after another and people are upset,” said Mariken van der Velden, assistant professor of political communications at the Free University of Amsterdam.

Recent troubles include a scandal over childcare subsidies that brought down Rutte’s previous government, an incident where he claimed to have “no active memory” of his earlier statements, and one in which he used text messages on his phone. agreed to delete it.

Tuesday he saw his 4,310th day in office—a day longer than Rudd Lubbers, who served as premier in the 1980s and early ’90s.

Rutte formed his first coalition in 2010 – and his fourth in October last year after an election widely seen as a referendum on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Van der Velden said Rutte has a knack for going through difficult moments. Key Strategies: Play for the time being, allow others to take the blame, and wait for popular opinion around solutions to solidify before supporting yourself.

She said Rutte had seen challenges from far-right rivals, including anti-Islamic MP Geert Wilders, by taking some of his positions with less inflammatory language, occupying an “admittedly populist” space.

Rutte’s support outside his party is weak, with 82% agreeing with the statement that he has “exceeded his expiration date” in an opinion poll by broadcaster Einwandag last week.

Less than 25% said he was prepared to tackle critical issues facing the country, including the energy and housing crises, after more than a decade in office.

A spokesman for Rutte’s office said he was not expected to make a statement to mark the milestone. Root briefly interrupted his holiday last week to reprimand farmers who dumped garbage on highways as part of ongoing environmental policy protests.

Of the current European national leaders, only Hungary’s Viktor Orban has been in office for long.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Matthew Lewis)