The Dutch government collapsed on Friday after failing to reach a deal on restricting immigration, triggering new elections in the fall. The crisis arose from Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party’s push to limit the flow of illegal immigrants to the Netherlands, which two of his coalition partners refused to support.
During a televised news conference, Prime Minister Rutte stated, “It’s no secret that the coalition partners have differing opinions about immigration policy. Today we unfortunately have to conclude that those differences have become insurmountable. Therefore, I will tender the resignation of the entire cabinet to the king.”
The tensions escalated this week when Rutte demanded support for a proposal to limit entrance of children of war refugees who are already in the Netherlands and to impose a two-year waiting period before families can be reunited. However, the small Christian Union and liberal D66 disagreed, resulting in a stalemate.
While a caretaker government will stay in place until new elections are held, it is unable to make decisions about new policies. The Dutch political landscape tends to be fragmented, and the process of forming a new administration typically takes months. The national elections committee reported that elections would not occur before mid-November.
Notably, the collapse of the government does not affect the country’s support for Ukraine, as stated by Prime Minister Rutte. The Netherlands already has one of Europe’s toughest immigration policies, but Rutte has been under pressure to further reduce the inflow of illegal immigrants.
Asylum applications in the Netherlands rose by a third last year, surpassing 46,000. The government projects that this year’s numbers may exceed 70,000, surpassing the previous high in 2015. This influx strains the country’s asylum facilities, with hundreds of refugees being forced to sleep rough without adequate access to basic necessities like drinking water, sanitary facilities, or healthcare.
Last year, humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières sent in a team to assist with the medical needs of illegal immigrants at the asylum processing center, leading Rutte to express his shame at the conditions. He promised to improve them by reducing the number of illegal immigrants reaching the Netherlands, but his coalition partners deemed his policies excessive and did not support him.
At 56 years old, Mark Rutte is the longest-serving government leader in Dutch history and the most senior within the EU after Hungary’s Viktor Orban. He is expected to lead his VVD party in the upcoming elections. This current coalition, which took power in January 2022, represents Rutte’s fourth consecutive administration since becoming prime minister in October 2010.