THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is due to meet King Willem-Alexander on Saturday, to discuss a caretaker administration the day after his centre-right government collapsed following a row on migration policies.
The resignation of the coalition government means parliament will most likely be dissolved and the Dutch will go to the polls in a general election, expected to be held in November.
Rutte, 56, in power since 2010, is already the Netherlands’ longest serving prime minister. He told a press conference late on Friday that he’d like to run for a fifth term but would consult with his party before making a final decision.
“If you were to ask me to decide now, the answer is obviously ‘yes’,” he told journalists, but added “it’s also up to the party”.
The crisis in Dutch politics came after Rutte’s conservative VVD party pushed to limit the flow of asylum seekers to the Netherlands.
Tensions came to a head this week, when Rutte demanded support for a proposal to limit the arrival of children of war refugees who are already in the Netherlands and to make families wait at least two years before they can be reunited.
This latest proposal was opposed by the small Christian Union and liberal D66, causing a stalemate and ultimately the collapse of government.
As head of state, King Willem-Alexander is expected to ask Rutte’s coalition to stay on as a caretaker government until a new administration is formed after new elections, a process which in the fractured Dutch political landscape usually takes months.
Not since the 2015-2016 migration crisis has immigration been such a fault line in European politics.
Support for Germany’s far right AfD has surged over the last six months. And in Spain polls suggest far right Vox party could enter government following the snap elections later this month.
In the Netherlands, migration is somewhat overshadowed by farmers’ protests against government plans to limit nitrogen emissions, a policy they say will spell the end of many farms.
Farmers’ protest party BBB became the biggest party in the March provincial elections which determine the make-up of the Dutch senate.
In the latest Ipsos poll, carried out a week before the government collapse, Rutte’s VVD is projected to remain the biggest party in the 150-seat parliament with 28 seats. But BBB is predicted to surge from just one seat now to 23, making it the second largest party in parliament.
While BBB is mostly focused on the government’s nitrogen emissions plans it also supports a stricter migration policy and has suggested a possible yearly cap of 15,000 asylum seekers.
The Netherlands already has a one of Europe’s toughestimmigration policies. Asylum applications in the Netherlands jumped by a third last year to over 46,000, and the government has projected they could increase to more than 70,000 this year – topping the previous high of 2015.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Ros Russell)
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