| 22 April 2024, Monday |

Dutch government resigns after failure to reach agreement on asylum measures

The resignation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the country’s longest-serving premier, implies that a general election will be held later this year. Rutte and his government will serve as caretakers until a new ruling coalition is formed.

The Dutch government fell up on Friday due to irreconcilable divisions inside the four-party coalition over how to control migration, a contentious topic that has divided nations across Europe.

The resignation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the longest-serving premier of the nation, means the country will face a general election later this year. Rutte and his government will remain in office in a caretaker capacity until a new ruling coalition is chosen.

“It is no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy,” Rutte told reporters in The Hague. “And today, unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable. That is why I will immediately … offer the resignation of the entire Cabinet to the king in writing”

Opposition lawmakers wasted no time in calling for fresh elections even before Rutte formally confirmed his resignation.

Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom, tweeted, “Quick elections now.” Across the political spectrum, Green Left leader Jesse Klaver also called for elections and told Dutch broadcaster NOS: “This country needs a change of direction.”

Rutte had presided over late-night meetings Wednesday and Thursday that failed to result in a deal on migration policy. At one final round of talks Friday evening, the parties decided unanimously that they could not agree and, as a result, could not remain together in the coalition.

The decision underscored ideological divisions that existed from the day the coalition was sworn in just over 18 months ago between parties that do not support a strict crackdown on migration — D66 and fellow centrist party ChristenUnie, or Christian Union — and the two that favour tougher measures — Rutte’s conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Christian Democrats.

Similar discussions are going on across political divides elsewhere in Europe as migrants fleeing conflict or seeking a better life make perilous sea crossings from northern Africa to reach the continent. Hundreds of thousands of people also have fled the grinding war in Ukraine.

Migration is set to be an essential theme of European Union parliamentary elections next year, but the issue hit early in the Netherlands, a nation that has long been torn between a welcoming international outreach and increasing resistance to foreign influences.

Rutte’s coalition tried for months to hash out a deal to reduce the flow of new migrants arriving in the country of nearly 18 million people. Proposals reportedly included creating two classes of asylum — a temporary one for people fleeing conflicts and a permanent one for people trying to escape persecution — and reducing the number of family members who are allowed to join asylum-seekers in the Netherlands.


  • Associated Press