Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government collapsed on Friday after coalition parties failed to reach an agreement on immigration policy. The parties were unable to bridge their differences on how to handle the issue, which has become increasingly divisive in the Netherlands in recent years.
What led to the collapse?
The Dutch government coalition, which formed 18 months ago, went into crisis when PM Rutte recently proposed to limit the right to family reunions for refugees from war zones to 200 people per month after a period of two years. The proposal was unacceptable to two of the coalition parties, D66 and the Christian Union, and led to a major escalation of the differences between the parties.
PM Rutte's own party, People's Party for Freedom and Democracy or VVD, has been under pressure from within to limit the number of asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands. The party's more right-leaning members believe that the country is being overburdened by the number of refugees, and that it is essential to take action to decrease the influx.
The D66 party and the smaller Christian Union, seen as the more progressive parties in the coalition, have warned PM Rutte that they will not support any measures that would make it more difficult for refugees to come to the Netherlands.
What happens now?
The Dutch election commission said that the earliest that new elections can be held is in mid-November.
PM Rutte said he would lead a caretaker government until new elections in mid-November. The government will focus on tasks including support for Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in February.
"It is no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy. This evening, we have unfortunately reached the conclusion that the differences are insurmountable. For this reason, I will shortly present my written resignation to the king in the name of the whole government," PM Rutte said as quoted by news agency AFP.
The sudden collapse of the coalition, dubbed as "Rutte IV" has sparked bitter dissension among the parties. The coalition had been in power for just over a year and a half.
What next for Mark Rutte?
Known for surviving one political crisis after another, Mark Rutte is the longest-serving prime minister in Dutch history and along with Hungary's Viktor Orban, one of the most senior leaders in the European Union. However, he posted his worst Senate election result this year, as the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) became the biggest party in the Dutch upper house.
PM Rutte has offered his resignation to King Willem-Alexander who will meet with him at his palace today.