Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited the king to back the resignation of his four-party coalition and put the deeply divided Netherlands on track for a general election later this year.
King Willem-Alexander flew in from a family vacation in Greece to meet Rutte on Saturday.
The vexed issue of curbing migration that has plagued countries across Europe for years was the final obstacle to topple Rutte’s government Friday night, exposing deep ideological differences between the four parties. which constitutes an uneasy coalition.
Now campaigning is likely to prevail for the election that is months away.
“We are the party that can secure a majority to further restrict the flow of asylum seekers,” said Geert Wilders, head of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom, which supports Rutte’s first minority coalition 13 years ago, but it was finally brought down. .
Opposition parties on the left also want the election to be about tackling problems they accuse Rutte of failing to adequately address – from climate change to a chronic housing shortage and the future of the country’s multibillion-euro (-dollar) agricultural sector.
Socialist Party leader Lilian Marijnissen told Dutch broadcaster NOS that the collapse of Rutte’s government was “good news for the Netherlands. I think everyone feels that this Cabinet is finished. They created more problems than they solved.”
Despite divisions between the four parties in Rutte’s government, it will remain in power as a caretaker administration until a new coalition is formed, but will not pass major new laws.
“Because of the challenges of the time, a war on this continent, nobody profits from a political crisis,” tweeted Sigrid Kaag, head of the centrist, pro-Europe D66 party.
Rutte, the Netherlands’ longest-serving premier and a veteran consensus builder, appeared ready to torpedo his fourth coalition government with tough demands in negotiations on how to reduce the number of migrants seeking asylum in his country.
Rutte negotiated for months a package of measures to reduce the flow of new migrants arriving in the country of nearly 18 million people. The proposals reportedly include the creation of two types of asylum – a temporary one for people fleeing conflicts and a permanent one for people trying to escape persecution – and reducing the number of members of family allowed to join asylum-seekers in the Netherlands. The idea of banning family members was strongly opposed by the minority coalition party ChristenUnie.
“I think unnecessary tension has been introduced” in the talks, Kaag said.
Pieter Heerma, the leader of the coalition partner Christian Democrats, called Rutte’s approach to the talks “almost indifferent.”
The fall of the government comes just months after a new, populist pro-farmer party, the Farmers Citizens Movement, known by its Dutch acronym BBB, shocked the political establishment by winning provincial elections. The party is now the largest bloc in the Dutch Senate and could be a serious threat to Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
The leader of the BBB, Caroline van der Plas, said her party will dust off its campaign posters from the provincial vote and come back again.
“We roll from one campaign to the next,” he said.