Dutch prime minister resigns after government collapse

The Hague, Netherlands –

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte met the king on Saturday in a bid to hand in 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 came back from a family holiday in Greece to meet Rutte, who drove to the palace in his Saab station wagon for the meeting to tell him about the political crisis that has beset his administration.

Rutte declined to answer questions from reporters and walked away from the meeting that lasted more than an hour, saying that the conversation with the monarch was private.

The complex issue of reining in migration that has vexed countries across Europe for years was the final hurdle that brought down Rutte’s government on Friday night, exposing deep ideological differences between the four parties that make up the uneasy coalition.

It is now likely to dominate the campaign for the election which is still a few months away.

“We are the party that can ensure a majority to significantly restrict the flow of asylum seekers,” said Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom, which backed Rutte’s first minority coalition 13 years ago. but eventually dropped it. ,

Left-wing parties also want elections to be held to tackle problems they have accused Rutte of failing to adequately address – from climate change to long-term housing shortages and the country’s multibillion-euro (-dollar) To the future of agriculture sector.

Socialist Party leader Liliane Marijnisen told Dutch broadcaster NOS that the collapse of Rutte’s government was “good news for the Netherlands. I think everyone thought this cabinet was over. They created more problems than they solved”. have been born.”

Despite differences between the four parties in Rutte’s government, it would remain in power as a caretaker administration until a new coalition was formed, but would not pass major new legislation.

Sigrid Kaag, leader of the centrist, pro-Europe D66 party, tweeted, “Given the challenges of the times, no one benefits from a political crisis, from a war on this continent.”

Rutte, the Netherlands’ longest-serving prime minister and an experienced consensus builder, appears to be the man most likely to torpedo his fourth coalition government with tough demands in talks on how to reduce the number of migrants seeking asylum in his country. were ready for.

Root negotiated for months a package of measures to stem the flow of new immigrants to the country of about 18 million people. The proposals reportedly include creating two categories of asylum – a temporary one for people fleeing conflict and a permanent one for those trying to escape persecution – and allowing families to join asylum seekers in the Netherlands. reducing the number of members. The idea of ​​blocking family members was strongly opposed by the minority coalition party KristenUni.

“I think unnecessary tension was created in the talks,” Kag said.

Peter Heerma, leader of coalition partner the Christian Democrats, called Rutte’s approach to the talks “almost reckless”.

The fall of the government comes just months after a new, populist pro-farmer party, the Peasant Citizens Movement, known by its Dutch acronym BBB, shocked the political establishment by winning provincial elections. The party is already the largest block in the Dutch Senate and would be a serious threat to Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.

BBB leader Caroline van der Plas said her party would dust off its campaign posters from the provincial vote and seek re-election.

“The campaign has begun!” Van der Plas said in a tweet that supporters of his party were hanging flags and banners on lamp posts.

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