Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
Asylum policy rift has torn the Dutch government apart, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced Image Credit: AFP

In a stunning turn of events, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, was left reeling on Friday as his government collapsed due to a heated debate over immigration policies.

The coalition parties, locked in a fierce battle, failed to find common ground on the divisive issue that has torn the Netherlands apart in recent years.

What caused the demise?

This once-united Dutch government, formed just 18 months ago, plunged into chaos when PM Rutte dropped a bombshell proposal to restrict the right to family reunions for war zone refugees to a mere 200 people per month after two years.

However, this idea was met with utter dismay by two coalition parties, namely D66 and the Christian Union, leading to an explosive escalation of their differences.

Rutte's own party, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy or VVD, has faced internal pressure to slash the number of asylum seekers swarming into the Netherlands. The party's more right-leaning members, convinced that the country is being crushed under the weight of refugees, are demanding immediate action to curb the inflow.

Meanwhile, the D66 party and the smaller Christian Union, viewed as the more forward-thinking factions in the coalition, have sent a fierce warning to PMRutte, stating that they will not support any measures that make it harder for refugees to seek safe haven in the Netherlands.

What's on the horizon?

According to the Dutch election commission, the earliest a new election can be held is mid-November, plunging the nation into months of uncertainty.

The PM has declared that he will continue to lead a caretaker government until the mid-November elections.

"It's no secret that our coalition partners have radically different views on immigration policy. Sadly, tonight we've come to the unavoidable conclusion that our differences are simply irreconcilable. That's why, in the name of the entire government, I will soon tender my written resignation to the king," PM Rutte exclaimed, as reported by the renowned news agency AFP.

190321 Rutte
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte exits a polling booth to cast his ballot. Image Credit: AFP

This sudden collapse of the coalition, infamously dubbed as "Rutte IV," has sparked discord among the parties involved. After holding the reins of power for a mere year and a half, their collective grip on authority has been crushed.

What's next for Mark Rutte?

Renowned for surviving countless political crises, Mark Rutte, the longest-serving prime minister in Dutch history, finds himself at a crossroads. Alongside Hungary's Viktor Orban, he ranks as one of the most senior leaders in the European Union.

However, Rutte’s resilience has been tested as his party faced its worst Senate election result this year, with the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) emerging as the leading party in the Dutch upper house.

Rutte has offered his resignation to King Willem-Alexander, who will grant him an audience at his opulent palace today.

Will this embattled leader emerge triumphant, or will his political fortunes crumble like a house of cards? Time will tell.