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Dutch PM Mark Rutte to leave politics after government collapses


By Catherine Nicholls and Christian Edwards, CNN

(CNN) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Monday he would step down as leader of the country’s ruling party and leave politics, after his government collapsed over immigration policy, Dutch national broadcaster and CNN affiliate NOS reported.

The inveterate survivor of Dutch politics, nicknamed “Teflon Mark” because scandals surrounding his four consecutive governments did not stick to him, announced his surprise decision at a parliamentary debate in the Hague.

“I did well and I honestly think that it is the right time [to step down],” Rutte said Monday, adding that he was leaving “with a lot of emotion and with a lot of mixed feelings.”

Rutte, who has been in power since 2010 and is Europe’s second-longest serving leader, had said Friday that his government would tender its resignation to the Dutch king, triggering new elections to be held in the fall.

He said at a news conference that “differing opinions about immigration policy” within his four-party coalition government had become “insurmountable,” but did not give any indication that he would resign from politics and was expected to lead the VVD party into the new elections.

VVD had proposed limiting entrance for children of war refugees who are already in the Netherlands, forcing families to wait for at least two years before they can be reunited.

The more hardline approach to immigration policy came after the numbers of those seeking asylum in the Netherlands soared in recent years.

The Netherlands received 36,620 applications for asylum in 2021 and 47,991 last year, with most applicants coming from Syria, according to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service.

As of May this year, the country had received 16,097 applications. The government estimates that applications could top 70,000 by the end of 2023.

Two of VVD’s coalition parties – the Christian Union and D66 – refused to support the new proposed restrictions, leading to the split that eventually caused the Dutch government to collapse.

Responding to Rutte’s surprise announcement, Jesse Klaver, leader of the green party GroenLinks, tweeted: “The Rutte era is now really over. The only right decision. I respect that.”

Lilian Marijnissen, leader of the Dutch Socialist Party also said that it was a “wise decision” for Rutte to leave, and it was “Good for the Netherlands.”

“Now is the time for honest politics,” Marijnissen said on Twitter.

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