A political crisis erupted in the Netherlands on Friday night, and the prime minister offered the resignation of his government to the king, which means there will be new elections in the fall. Here’s what you need to know.
Why did the Dutch government collapse?
Unable to convince the more centrist members of his four-party ruling coalition to support more restrictive migration policies, the conservative Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, wrote his resignation to King Willem-Alexander on Friday evening and spoke with the king. personally about it on Saturday in The Hague.
The collapse underscores the power of immigration as an arbiter of Europe’s politics, and how to prevent far-right parties from capitalizing on it is a growing problem for mainstream politicians.
Mr Rutte’s four-party coalition included his own party, the centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, as well as the centrist pro-European D66 and two centrist Christian parties: CDA and Christian Union.
With his government feeling pressured on the migration issue by parties to the right, Mr Rutte has been talking for months to his coalition partners about measures to further control the number of refugees coming into the country. On Friday night, the parties decided they could not come to a compromise and chose to dissolve the coalition, plunging the country into political uncertainty.
“It’s no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy,” Mr Rutte said on Friday. “And today, unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable.”
What were the proposed policies that caused the breach?
The government discussed conditions of family reunification for refugees and also whether to create two classes of asylum: temporary for people fleeing conflicts, and permanent for people fleeing persecution.
The goal of both proposals was to reduce the number of refugees, as right-wing parties outside the coalition saw political gains by appealing to growing voter concerns in the Netherlands about immigration.
While the other coalition parties were prepared to agree to the two-tier asylum system, they would not agree to support Mr Rutte’s proposal for a two-year waiting period before refugees already living in the Netherlands could be joined by their children.
Last year, more than 21,000 people from outside the European Union sought asylum in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch government. More than 400,000 people immigrated to the Netherlands in total in 2022, the office said, an increase from the previous year.
The large number of arrivals strained the housing capacity of the Netherlands, which was already suffering lack for the more than 17 million people of the country.
What is happening now?
Although he has resigned as prime minister, Mr Rutte will remain in charge of an interim government until general elections are held.
Dutch voters will go to the polls in the fall, probably in November. It is unclear whether Mr Rutte will stay on as leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, but he indicated on Friday night that he would be open to it and Dutch media speculated that he would.
Many of the party’s faithful are still happy with Mr. Rutte, said Marcel Hanegraaff, associate professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam.
If Mr Rutte’s party – which can count on the constant support of around 20 percent of Dutch voters, according to Mr Hanegraaff – succeeds in winning the election, he would be tasked with forming a new coalition government, his fifth. But he may face the same set of coalition problems.
Who is Mark Rutte, and what does his future hold?
Mr. Rutte has weathered many political storms before. He is the longest-serving prime minister of the Netherlands, who came to power in 2010. To survive at least one more government collapse and many other political obstacles, he earned the nickname “Teflon Mark.”
But Dutch politicians from other parties said it was time for a new prime minister.
Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the Peasant-Citizen Movement, a pro-farmer party that swept local elections in the Netherlands this year, said she wanted a new leader and welcomed an opportunity for voters to go to the polls this fall, two years from now. earlier than expected.
Analysts in the Netherlands expect the Peasant-Citizen Movement, which currently has one seat in the 150-member Parliament, to do well in the upcoming elections. Polls show they could enter as the nation’s second largest party.
Dutch farmers are angry with Mr Rutte’s government for announcing cuts in nitrogen pollution to preserve protected nature reserves – a policy the farmers believe unfairly targets them.
Attje Kuiken, the leader of the Dutch Workers’ Party, wrote on Twitter that “Mark Rutte is done governing.” She added that she wanted new elections quickly, “because the Netherlands needs a government that shows vigor and makes decisions.”