The Dutch coalition government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte collapsed on Friday due to “insurmountable” differences over migration dispute, with elections expected in November.
The Dutch government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte abruptly collapsed on Friday due to infighting over migration policy. Rutte, who has led the Netherlands since 2010, effectively ended his fourth administration after he gave his coalition partners an ultimatum to restrict the right of refugees from conflict zones to reunite with their families.
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On Friday, Rutte presided over crisis discussions in which the four parties diverged. They fell out over Rutte’s plans to impose restrictions on reuniting families of asylum seekers, an effort to reduce the number of asylum seekers following a scandal involving overcrowded immigration centers last year.
Rutte then met with King Willem-Alexander in The Hague on Saturday and agreed to lead an interim government until mid-November, when new elections are expected.
Rutte, the leader of the center-right VVD party, stated at a press conference following the breakdown of negotiations: “It’s no secret that the coalition partners have vastly different views on migration policy.”
A collapse over migration agreement differences?
Last year, the number of asylum requests in the Netherlands rose by more than a third, to more than 47,000. Earlier this year, government figures said that they expected about 70,000 applications in 2023. Consequently, the coalition partners — Rutte’s VVD, the Christian Democrats, the progressive D66, and the minor Christian Union — had spent weeks discussing asylum policy.
Even though they were close to reaching an agreement, the conflict escalated on Wednesday when Rutte introduced non-negotiable demands and attempted to impose a plan that limited the number of relatives of war refugees allowed into the Netherlands to 200 per month. The situation deteriorated from there.
The leader of the Christian Democrats, a coalition partner, Pieter Heerma, described Rutte’s approach to the negotiations as “almost reckless.”
This was Rutte’s fourth coalition since assuming office in 2010. However, it only took office in January 2022 after a record 271 days of negotiations, and it was profoundly divided on numerous issues. Immigration has been a hot-button issue throughout the European Union for years, and it was the final obstacle that brought down Rutte’s government on Friday night, revealing the profound ideological differences between the four parties that comprised the uneasy coalition.
“The decision was very difficult for us,” Rutte told journalists as he announced his cabinet’s resignation. The differences in views between the coalition partners were “irreconcilable”, he added.
“The four parties decided that they cannot reach an agreement on migration,” the Christian Union’s spokesman Tim Kuijsten said. “Therefore, they decided to end this government.”
Voting to be held later this year with “worries”
A vote will be conducted no earlier than mid-November, the country’s Electoral Council announced on Friday, citing factors such as Dutch law allowing time for new parties to register and polling stations to be organized. Until then, the cabinet will continue to serve in an interim capacity.
The upstart Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) party, led by farmers who oppose the government’s environmental regulations backed by the European Union, will attempt to repeat its earlier success in this year’s senate elections.
The opposition parties in the Netherlands have called for a vote of no confidence in Rutte in an effort to remove him as interim prime minister until the next election. The motion will be presented by the opposition during the parliamentary debate.
Moreover, the Netherlands is facing one of their most chaotic and divisive election campaigns in years. Its leader, Caroline van der Plas, has refused to join a coalition with Rutte, and she has not ruled out running for prime minister if her party obtains the most seats in the upcoming election.
Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom, asserts that his party can guarantee a majority vote to limit the influx of asylum seekers. Left-wing opposition parties are focused on fixing problems that they think Prime Minister Rutte has ignored, such as climate change, housing shortages, and the agricultural sector. Lilian Marijnissen, leader of the Socialist Party, views the collapse of Rutte’s administration as positive, arguing that it has caused more problems than it has solved.
Local media reported that Rutte took a hard line on immigration to deflect a challenge from the VVD’s right wing, whose constituents the farmer party has begun to court. Moreover, the influence of far-right parties in the Netherlands, especially that of anti-Islamic leader Geert Wilders, has put Rutte under pressure on the topic of immigration for a long time. After the scandal involving migration centres last summer, during which a baby died and hundreds of people were forced to sleep outside, he vowed to address migration.
Will Rutte run again?
Rutte, 56, has served as prime minister for the longest period of time in the nation. He continues to have widespread support, and his capacity to bounce back from setbacks has given him the moniker “Teflon Mark.” He stated that he still had the stamina for a fifth term, but that a definitive decision would have to be made after consulting with his party.
Despite obstacles and setbacks, Mark Rutte’s party remains in the lead, according to some polls, suggesting that he may be able to secure a second term by forging a new coalition. Rutte’s recent Senate election results were the worst of his premiership, with the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) becoming the largest party in the Dutch upper chamber as a result of their opposition to government efforts to reduce nitrogen emissions.
In light of these developments, Rutte may seek coalition partners on the right side of the political spectrum whose views on migration are more aligned with his own. In addition, environmental policies, particularly those pertaining to the nitrogen crisis, are likely to play a significant role in any future coalition agreement.
Overall, the political landscape in the Netherlands is in flux, and the outcome of the election will determine the future direction of the country on crucial issues such as migration disputes and the environment.