As Dutch voters go to the polling booths today, Wednesday, November 22, to cast their ballots in what is forecast to be a close election, with opinion polls showing at least three parties – including the far right – vying for primacy, outgoing PM Mark Rutte appears to be re-emerging as the frontrunner for the position of NATO Chief.
Recent discussions within NATO circles have hinted at the possibility of a change in leadership, with initial plans leaning towards a female figurehead, as the current NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg is set to step down in 2024.
Rutte’s candidacy for the western Alliance seems to have regained traction.
Rutte was reportedly approached twice with requests to lead the military alliance but he declined. However, his candidacy has gained momentum again, with western allies relieved the Dutchman is reconsidering his initial refusal as they believe his “competition”, particularly from Baltic colleagues, such as Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins, and Danish PM Mette Frederiksen used overly belligerent rhetoric toward Russia.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was also considered for the post, as she is seen as a more moderate figure and with experience, having served as German Defense Minister, but the head of the EC has not decided if she intends to run for a second term as President of the EC.
The former Defense Minister, however, has never expressed a desire to replace Jens Stoltenberg.
In a September interview with the television network France TV Bruxelles, she stated that she expects to make a decision by late 2023 or early 2024 about whether she will be “the face of Europe for another five years.”
Currently, there is anticipation for an announcement from Ursula von der Leyden regarding her candidacy for a second tenure as head of the European Commission, a decision that might affect the race for the new NATO chief.