King Willem-Alexander returned from a family vacation in Greece to meet with Prime Minister Rutte, who drove his Saab station wagon to the palace to explain the political crisis that toppled his administration.
Rutte refused to address reporters’ queries as he drove away from a lengthy meeting with the king, citing the private nature of their discussion.
The contentious issue of restricting migration, which has troubled European nations for years, was the final obstacle that toppled Rutte’s government on Friday evening, revealing the profound ideological differences between the four parties that composed the uneasy coalition.
Now, it is likely to dominate the campaign for an election months away.
“We are the party that can guarantee a majority to substantially restrict the flow of asylum seekers,” said Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom, which supported Rutte’s first minority coalition 13 years ago but ultimately toppled it.
Rutte is Accused of Failing to Address Netherlands’ Issues
Left-leaning opposition parties want the election to be about addressing issues Rutte has allegedly failed to adequately address, including climate change, an endemic housing shortage, and the future of the nation’s multibillion-euro (dollar) agricultural sector.
Lilian Marijnissen, chief of the Socialist Party, told NOS that the collapse of Rutte’s administration was “good news for the Netherlands. I believe that everyone felt that the Cabinet’s work was complete. They have caused more issues than they have resolved.”
Rutte’s government will remain in office as a caretaker administration until a new coalition is formed, but will not approve any significant new legislation.
“Given the challenges of the times, a conflict on this continent, nobody profits from a political crisis,” tweeted Sigrid Kaag, leader of the pro-European, centrist D66 party.
Rutte, the longest-serving prime minister in the Netherlands and a seasoned consensus builder, appeared to be the one who was willing to bring down his fourth coalition government through negotiations over how to reduce the number of migrants seeking asylum in his country.
Rutte spent months negotiating a package of measures to reduce the influx of new migrants into the nearly 18 million-person nation.
Reported proposals included the creation of two classifications of asylum — a temporary one for those escaping conflicts and a permanent one for those attempting to escape persecution — and a reduction in the number of family members permitted to join asylum-seekers in the Netherlands.
The minority coalition party ChristenUnie opposed vehemently the notion of barring family members.
The government collapses just a few months after a new populist pro-farmer party, the Farmers Citizens Movement, also known by its Dutch acronym BBB, stunned the political establishment by winning provincial elections. The party will pose a significant challenge to Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, as it is the largest faction in the Dutch Senate.
Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the BBB, stated that her party would polish off their provincial election campaign posters and run again.
“The campaign is now underway!” Van der Plas tweeted a picture of her party’s supporters draping flags and banners from light posts.