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Rutte meets Dutch king to discuss caretaker government

July 8, 2023

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has discussed his government's resignation with King Willem-Alexander, who is expected to ask Rutte's coalition to continue as an interim government.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte
Mark Rutte has not yet decided whether he will take part in the next electionImage: Robin Utrecht/dpa/ANP/picture alliance

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte held talks with the king of the Netherlands on Saturday after his coalition government collapsed. King Willem-Alexander was out of the country on holiday at the time of the government's fall and flew back to the Netherlands to meet Rutte.

Rutte already offered the king the resignation of his Cabinet in writing on Friday evening, shortly after his government fell apart amid a dispute over migration.

The prime minister declined to comment on the hour-and-a-half-long meeting after he left the palace in The Hague. "These are confidential meetings," he told reporters.

Before meeting the king, Rutte tweeted he had called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to ensure him his government's caretaker status would not affect Dutch support for Ukraine.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves the Huis ten Bosch Palace, in The Hague
Mark Rutte leaves the royal palace in The HagueImage: Piroschka van de Wouw/REUTERS

What will happen next?

As head of state, the King is expected to ask Rutte's coalition to stay on as a caretaker government until a new administration is formed after the election, a process which in the fractured Dutch political landscape usually takes months.

The next major step will be to dissolve parliament, but first there will be a debate about the government's resignation in the Dutch lower house planned for Monday. After parliament is dissolved, an election will be held, expected in November.

Rutte told a press conference on Friday he'd like to run in the next election but would consult with his party before making a final decision. He is the Netherlands' longest-serving prime minister, in power since 2010.

In the event of new elections, Rutte would hope his party could emerge from a fifth successive vote as the strongest party and try to form a new coalition, possibly with an altered landscape in parliament.

What was the dispute about?

The sticking point at the Friday evening crisis meeting in The Hague was a restriction on family reunification for refugees already in the country, which Rutte's right-wing liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) party had demanded.

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.

These demands went too far for the other parties. In particular, the conservative Christian Union (CU) insisted on the possibility for children of civil war refugees to join their parents in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands already has a one of Europe's toughest immigration policies. Asylum applications jumped by a third last year to over 46,000, and the government has projected they could top 70,000 this year — above the previous high of 2015.

dh/lo (AFP, dpa, Reuters)