Rutte resigns! Dutch PM to leave politics after government collapses over immigration

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sits in a car as he leaves Palace Huis ten Bosch in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, July 8, 2023 after he informed King Willem-Alexander that his coalition government has resigned. Rutte announced the collapse of the government Friday night and declined to answer reporters' questions as he left. (AP Photo/Michael Corder)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced his intention to step down from front line politics after his coalition government collapsed amid “unbridgeable” differences on the country’s asylum and immigration policy.

At an emergency parliamentary debate on Monday morning, the four-time Dutch prime minister told lawmakers he would not lead his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) into elections due to be held later this year, and will leave Dutch politics upon the formation of a new government.

“In the past few days, people have speculated about what motivates me, and the only answer is: the Netherlands. My position in this regard is now completely unsuitable,” Rutte told parliamentary colleagues.

“Yesterday morning I took the decision that I will no longer be available to head the VVD list. When a new government takes over, I shall leave politics,” he added.

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Rutte had already visited King Willem-Alexander on Saturday to formally annul the coalition government with the Democrats 66 (D66), Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Christian Union (CU).

The parties had become fragmented in recent times regarding the contentious issue of immigration.

Rutte’s VVD and the CDA had been pushing for a tightening of restrictions after more than 45,000 asylum applications were lodged in the country last year — with the same again expected this year — leading to a saturation of asylum and social services in major Dutch cities.

The D66 and CU opposed the restrictive measures, leading to an untenable situation for the coalition that took ten months to form, and governed for just 18 months.

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“It’s no secret that the coalition parties think very differently about asylum policy and today we unfortunately need to draw the conclusion that the differences are unbridgeable,” Rutte told a press conference on Friday evening.

“The fall of a government is never good. But it is sometimes impossible in a coalition country like the Netherlands to come to one agreement,” he added.

Left-wing parties have submitted a motion calling for Rutte’s immediate resignation following the events over the weekend, but the Dutch prime minister insists he and existing MPs will continue to oversee matters in a caretaker role until new elections due to take place in November.

This motion is also supported by right-wing populist Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), who took the opportunity on Monday to promote his party as the ideal replacement for Rutte’s administration, promising an immigration and asylum crackdown.

“The PVV wants to co-govern! We are desperately needed to implement a strict asylum policy,” Wilders said in a parliamentary speech. “So, voters, make the PVV so big that no one can ignore us!” he added.

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