Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has announced his resignation and that of his cabinet, citing irreconcilable differences within his four-party coalition over how to control immigration.
The decision by the longest-serving Dutch prime minister on Friday means the country will face a general election later this year for the lower house of parliament, which has 150 seats.
“It’s no secret that 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 these differences are irreconcilable. Therefore I will immediately…offer the resignation of the entire Cabinet to the King in writing.
Rutte said he would lead an interim government until elections that would focus on tasks such as continued support for Ukraine’s war effort.
Opposition MPs wasted no time in calling for new elections.
Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, tweeted: “Quick elections now. Jesse Klaver, leader of the Green Left party also called for elections and told Dutch broadcaster NOS: “This country needs a change of direction.”
Rutte had chaired evening meetings on Wednesday and Thursday which did not lead to an agreement on migration policy. Further talks took place on Friday evening and he had declined to answer questions on the matter at his weekly press conference ahead of the talks.
“Everyone wants to find a good, effective solution that also does justice to the fact that it’s about human lives,” Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag, a member of the centrist D66 party, said before the talks began.
Discussions highlighted ideological divisions within the coalition between partner parties that do not support a tough crackdown on migration – D66 and the centrist party ChristenUnie, or Christian Union – and the two that favor tougher measures – Rutte’s conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Christian Democrats.
The coalition has been trying for months to strike a deal to reduce the flow of new migrants arriving in the country by nearly 18 million people.
Proposals would have included creating two classes of asylum – a temporary one for people fleeing conflict and a permanent one for people trying to escape persecution – and reducing the number of family members allowed to join claimants. asylum in the Netherlands.
Hundreds of asylum seekers were forced to sleep outdoors in squalid conditions near an overcrowded reception center last year as the number of people arriving in the Netherlands exceeded the beds available. Dutch aid agencies provided assistance.
More than 21,500 people from outside Europe applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 2022, according to the country’s statistics office. Tens of thousands more moved to the Netherlands to work and study.
The numbers put a strain on housing that was already scarce in the densely populated country.
Rutte’s government has been working for a law that could compel municipalities to provide accommodation for newly arrived asylum seekers, but the legislation has yet to be passed by both houses of parliament.
The prime minister also encouraged European Union efforts to slow migration to the 27-nation bloc.
Rutte, 56, traveled to Tunisia last month with his Italian counterpart and the chairman of the EU’s executive board to offer more than €1bn (£850m) in financial aid to save the North African nation’s faltering economy and to stem migration from its shores to Europe. .
Rutte’s coalition government, the fourth he has led, took office in January 2022 following the longest coalition negotiations in Dutch political history.
There will likely be an election for the 150-seat lower house later this year amid a polarized and splintered political landscape. Rutte’s cabinet would likely remain in office as an interim administration until a new government was formed.
In provincial elections earlier this year, a pro-farmer populist party put Rutte’s party in second place. The defeat was seen as a possible incentive for Rutte to do everything possible to maintain his coalition until the end of his term in 2025.