Now, Rutte will lead a government that includes a party that during the election campaign took a much more positive tone towards European integration than the prime minister did.
“A prime minister speaks for all parties in the coalition. Expressing a compromise opinion comes with the job, and that's something Rutte can do," says Medy van der Laan of the social-liberal D66 party. "He is not someone with a Great Design."
Rutte started his career at the international corporation Unilever, but shifted into politics when he became deputy minister of Social Affairs and Employment under Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende in 2002. Two years later, he switched to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to become deputy minister of Education and Science.
Ms. van der Laan was his colleague at the same ministry and as deputy minister responsible for Culture and Media affairs. “Mark Rutte was a nice, sociable colleague – always cheerful and bright,” van der Laan says. “He always created a good atmosphere. A pleasant guy. Rutte is someone who tries to find similarities instead of differences. And he has a good political antenna.”
Arend Jan Boekestijn was a Liberal member of parliament from 2006 until 2009, and praises Rutte's inclusive leadership.
“Often party leaders have their paladins, but not Rutte. He showed no favorites,” Mr. Boekestijn says. Rutte is “intrinsically friendly and genuinely interested in people,” and his social skills make him “a builder of bridges,” Boekestijn adds.
“This man is a connector,” says Eric Trinthamer, who was spokesperson for Rutte and the party in the same period.