The Dutch felt very proud when photographs of Prime Minister Mark Rutte riding his bicycle to a meeting with the king at the Noordeinde Palace in The Hague last week turned into a moderately viral international sensation. To the rest of the planet, it might seem disconcerting to see a world leader pedaling to a meeting with a monarch. But in the Netherlands, it’s everyday fare.
It was a quintessentially Dutch image: a powerful man disdaining the visible accoutrements of the mighty in favor of a “normal” way of life. And on this particular occasion, it served to make a point.
Rutte biked to the palace to inform King Willem-Alexander that, at long last, he had reached an agreement to form a new government. He was happy to see the images make the headlines, because the substance of the agreement points to a coalition that will be weak and vulnerable.