The Dutch coalition government has collapsed on the issue of mass migration as Prime Minister Mark Rutte tendered his resignation Friday to signal a contentious general election for later this year.
Rutte declined to take questions from reporters after meeting King Willem-Alexander on Saturday, ending his 13-year reign as prime minister. He did not divulge what they discussed before departing the hour-long meeting.
The issue of reining in migration is likely to be a question at the ballot box after the issue exposed 'profound ideological differences' among coalition members.
Rutte's government will remain in power until a new coalition is formed but will not pass significant legislation until such time.
"We are the party that can ensure a majority to restrict the flow of asylum seekers significantly," said Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom. Though Wilders supported Rutte's minority coalition spanning over a decade, the divide on immigration and agriculture ultimately collapsed the government.
"Given the challenges of the times, a war on this continent, nobody profits from a political crisis," said Sigrid Kaag, leader of the centrist, pro-Europe D66 party. He condemned the "unnecessary tension" introduced during the coalition's failed negotiation of new measures to mitigate migrants from entering the country.
After months of deliberation, the government proposed creating two classes of asylum seekers — a temporary class for those fleeing conflicts and a permanent class for those fleeing persecution.
Though blocked by the coalition party ChristienUnie, the coalition proposed reducing the number of family members permitted to join asylum seekers in the Netherlands.
The Farmers-Citizen Movement (BBB) called for a cap of 50 to 100 asylum seekers per city council or regional authority.
"We should start looking annually at how many genuine asylum seekers the Netherlands can reasonably cope with while maintaining a broad social base," said BBB leader Caroline Van der Plas.
The Christian Democrats, a coalition partner, also criticized Rutte's approach to the immigration talks, calling it "almost reckless."
The government's fall comes months after the BBB's rise to the Senate, a new, populist pro-farmer party.
The BBB rode a wave of disgruntled voters against the government's 'climate change' policies — winning more Senate seats than Rutte's conservative VVD party with 17 of 75 seats. The VVD dropped from 12 to 10 seats.
The BBB used its 17 seats in the Dutch Senate to block farm takeovers as part of their opposition to arbitrarily halving nitrogen emissions, reducing herd sizes and farmer buyouts worth billions of dollars.
After seven months of back-and-forth between farmers and the Dutch coalition government on nitrogen, negotiations within the world's second-largest agricultural exporter collapsed two weeks ago.
Before Friday, Rutte — the longest-serving prime minister in Dutch history — and the other coalition party leaders resisted calls for an early election before the March 2025 deadline.
However, the BBB appeared convinced the coalition government led by Rutte would collapse and trigger a general election before the end of the year.
Van der Plas said the movement is about more than just nitrogen as voters are "fed up" with traditional politicians and politics. The March vote effectively became a de facto referendum on Rutte's leadership.
"The campaign has begun!" she said, claiming the BBB would dust off their campaign posters from the provincial vote and go again.
According to general election polls, the farmers' party would become the equally largest party nationally with the VVD if the election happened now.