Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gives a press conference after the fall of his government coalition, in The Hague, July 7, 2023. PHIL NIJHUIS / AFP
There were dozens of onlookers gathered near the Binnenhof, the center of power in The Hague, on Friday July 7. They were trying to understand why the liberal Mark Rutte, the one who, in January 2022, took the head of his fourth government by presenting himself as the man of stability, had just precipitated the fall of his coalition after 543 days.
In the evening, at the end of three days of discussions, the four parties making up his coalition in fact parted on a finding of total disagreement about the asylum policy.
Mark Rutte, who said to himself ” disappointed ” but mentioned differences “insurmountable” with its partners, presented in writing, on Friday evening, the resignation of its government. King Willem-Alexander, returned from Greece where he was on vacation, was to meet with him on Saturday. Elections will be held in the fall, following a period of day-to-day business.
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It is an unexpected proposal, formulated on Wednesday July 5 by the Prime Minister, wishing to limit the family reunification of refugees, which will have set fire to the powder: Mark Rutte wanted that people having fled a war – and likely, according to him, return to their country of origin one day – could only bring relatives to the Netherlands if they had sufficient financial resources. Exceptions would have been granted for a maximum of 200 people per month.
Rush a return to elections
“Unacceptable”, decreed the centrist Protestant party ChristenUnie, supported by the left-wing liberals of D66, the latter party attempting, however, with the Christian Democrats who formed the fourth component of the government, to propose a compromise solution; they referred to a mechanism for temporarily limiting reception. The Prime Minister refused, clearly eager to satisfy the base of his movement, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), which has been calling for a stricter migration policy since 2017.
Prisoner of a coalition which was not really his first choice and which was installed after very long negotiations, the liberal leader seems, in fact, to have seized on a pretext to precipitate a return to the elections. Mark Rutte feared that the asylum problem, with the daily observation of overwhelmed reception centers and the refusal of many mayors to shelter more refugees, would end up permanently weakening his position.
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Some 20,000 people have applied for asylum or reunification, according to the Dutch immigration services. This is less than what the government was planning, which mentioned, in April, the probability of 70,000 requests for the whole of the year. A number which will probably not be reached but which has fueled the debate, several liberal officials in particular judging the situation “untenable”.
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