Mark Rutte was born in 1967 in the Hague and entered politics in 1993. Between 1993 and 1997, Rutte was a member of the national board of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) before serving as a member of the VVD candidate committee for the general election of 2002. Rutte was elected as a member of Parliament in 2003.
The 55-year-old politician has led the VVD since 2006 and has been the prime minister of the Netherlands since October 2010.
After the latest general election in September 2012, Rutte, whose party VVD won the majority vote, created a coalition with the runner-up Labour Party (PvdA) and a new VVD-PvdA centrist government emerged on November 5, 2012, comprised of Rutte as prime minister, along with seven VVD ministers and six PvdA ministers. Rutte is regarded as the first liberal to take office since 1918 and the first elected prime minister who is neither a Christian-democrat nor a socialist.
Despite having previously pledged not to form a coalition with the anti-Islamic Geert Wilders, Rutte worked alongside Wilders, who helped him establish a government after the 2010 elections, agreeing to support the government while taking no seats in Cabinet. However, Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Wilders withdrew his party's support on April 2012, claiming the budget would hurt economic growth, which led to the dissolution of the government.
Rutte remains committed to the EU, presenting himself as the only serious alternative to Geert Wilders. The latest poll revealed that Prime Minister Rutte's VVD party is on track to win 27 seats in the 150-seat parliament with 18 percent of the vote.
Mark Rutte is unmarried and a member of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands.
Geert Wilders was born in the southeastern Dutch city of Venlo in 1963 and entered politics at 28 years of age in 1990, serving as parliamentary assistant to Frits Bolkestein, then leader of the VVD. In 1997, he was elected to the Municipal Council of Utrecht for his party, going on to be elected as a member of Dutch Parliament just one year later.
Prior to his appointment as public spokesman for the VVD in 2002, he had drawn little attention. However, his new post has led him to become more well-known thanks to his outspoken criticism of Islam. Following his controversial statements against Islam, tensions developed within the party, as Wilders stationed himself to the right of most members. He also refused to endorse the party's position regarding Turkey's negotiations for EU accession.
These tensions resulted in his expulsion from the VVD, of which he had been a member since 1989. In September 2004, Wilders formed his own political party, the Party for Freedom (PVV).
According to the latest polls, Wilders's anti-Islamic PVV was in second place with 16 percent, and is set to win 24 seats. Even though Wilders will surpass Rutte's VVD and come in first place, he is likely to be sidelined and will not become prime minister as other major parties have publicly declared that it is highly unlikely they would form a government with him.
Often referred to as the "Dutch Donald Trump," Wilders does not have much in common with the U.S. president aside from physical traits - blonde hair - and having a wife of Eastern-European origin, aside from also strongly opposing immigrants in their own countries. Most basically, Wilders is not an advocate of conservative values, he is an agnostic who prefers to call himself a liberal instead of a conservative. Wilders even supports gay rights, one of the main issues causing conflict between liberals and conservatives in many Western countries, since he regards the issue as part of a larger struggle to defend the national values against Islam, in a country that was once proud to have been the first in the world to establish the marriage equality law. Such liberal views on marriage are the red line between Wilders and Trump, as well as politicians Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini, prominent far-right party leaders of France and Italy.
Wilders, now 58, is the third-longest sitting member in the Dutch parliament's Lower House. He considers himself a right-wing liberal and cites former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as his greatest political role model.
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