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Dutch PM deleted texts on mobile ‘to save space’

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Wednesday he had for years deleted messages to his ageing mobile phone to save space, but insisted any important texts had been archived.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to the press at the Ministry of General Affairs in The Hague, The Netherlands on May 18, 2022. (Photo by Robin van Lonkhuijsen / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT / Den Haag,Robin van Lonkhuijsen, Nederland, Nederlandse beelden, DEN HAAG –

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Wednesday he had for years deleted messages to his ageing mobile phone to save space, but insisted any important texts had been archived.

Rutte, whose devotion to his old Nokia has chimed with his frugal public image, made the admission after De Volkskrant newspaper sought access to government communications during the Covid pandemic.

The 55-year-old premier personally selected which messages to erase and which were crucial enough to be forwarded to a government official to be kept for posterity, De Volkskrant said.

“I conformed to the guidelines,” Rutte told journalists.

Dubbed the “Teflon premier” by Dutch media because of his ability to survive scandal, Rutte added he had “never deliberately” withheld important matters by selecting which texts to delete.

Known for his low-key style including riding his bike to work, Rutte said he was “not a big fan of smartphones” because they were hard to type on and had therefore kept his old device.

But it started to slow down because it had thousands of messages and so he began to delete some, he said.

Under Dutch law some government correspondence must be kept, among other things to be able to explain to the public why certain choices have been made.

De Volkskrant launched a court bid for access to Rutte’s texts in 2020, based on a separate ruling the previous year that SMS and WhatsApp messages were included in the law.

But the newspaper said it was surprised to receive only messages forwarded from Rutte to his staff and wanted more information.

A lawyer representing the Dutch state said Tuesday Rutte had conducted “real-time archiving” and there was no reason to suspect foul play by the premier.

Rutte’s press advisors in the meantime confirmed he now had a smartphone because his old phone did not work on the networks during a visit to the United States.

It is not the first political controversy to dog the leader of the centre-right VVD party, who has been in office since 2010 and is set to become the Netherlands’ longest-serving leader later this year.

His previous government was forced to resign en masse in 2021 over a child benefits scandal, while he narrowly survived a no confidence vote later that year over allegations that he lied about coalition talks.

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