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Dutch PM Rutte says to quit politics after elections

THE HAGUE (AFP) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said yesterday he would quit politics after the fall of his coalition government, in a shock end to the career of the Netherlands’ longest-serving leader.

Rutte, who has led four coalition governments since 2010, said he would stand down after elections expected in November following the collapse of the coalition in a row over migration.

“I would like to say something personal. There has been speculation over the past few days about what motivates me. The only answer is the Netherlands,” Rutte told Parliament.

“Yesterday morning, I took the decision that I am no longer suitable to be the new head of the list for the VVD (his centre-right party). When the new government is sworn in after the elections, I will quit politics.” Rutte, who is Europe’s second-longest serving leader after Hungary’s Viktor Orban, added that it was his “personal assessment independent of the events of the past week”.

The decision came as a surprise as Rutte had said in a press conference on Friday that he had the “energy” to seek a fifth term in office, although adding that he would think the matter over.

Rutte – long dubbed the “Teflon premier” for his ability to ensure political scandals did not stick to him – said at the time he would stay on in a caretaker capacity until elections, which will not be until mid-November at the earliest.

The last coalition collapsed on Friday over Rutte’s plans to tighten curbs on reuniting families of asylum-seekers, in a bid to curb arrivals after a scandal last year over overcrowded migration centres.

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks during a debate on the fall of the Cabinet at the House of Representatives in The Hague, the Netherlands. PHOTO: AFP