Rutte favorite to be next NATO boss despite Dutch vote shock

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is the clear front-runner to become NATO's next chief, even though a shock far-right win at elections in his homeland risks tarnishing his legacy.

Multiple diplomats put the veteran well ahead of other hopefuls, including Estonian premier Kaja Kallas and Latvia's top diplomat Krisjanis Karins, jostling to take over from the alliance's current boss Jens Stoltenberg next year.

A successor for Stoltenberg, who has had his decade-long tenure extended twice in the face of Russia's war on Ukraine, is expected to be announced before a July summit in Washington.

After ruling himself out for the NATO post in previous years, Rutte, 56, is now available following his surprise resignation this summer.

Last month, he told Dutch media that running the alliance was a "very interesting" job and he would be open to the prospect if it came his way.

A familiar figure on the European stage after 13 years running the Netherlands, the Dutch stalwart is already favored by NATO heavyweights the United States, Britain, France and Germany, diplomats say.

"He is a candidate for secretary general of NATO. He has made it clear that he's available and there's broad-based support for him," said a diplomat at the alliance.

Some supporters want to wrap up his nomination soon to avoid the NATO job getting put in the mix with EU top positions up for grabs after an election next June.

But there is likely still some frantic haggling ahead, and others warn it is not a done deal yet with possible opposition coming from Türkiye and Hungary.

One potential stumbling block for Rutte could be the situation he leaves behind in the Netherlands where a victory for far-right Geert Wilders has sent shockwaves...

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