Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Monday that he won’t run for a fifth term in office after handing in the resignation of his cabinet Friday, bringing an end to the country’s fragile four-party coalition government.
Fifty-six-year-old Rutte, who became the country’s longest-serving prime minister in history in August last year, said he plans to leave Dutch politics following elections later in the year.
The leader of the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) had served as prime minister since 2010.
“In recent days there’s been a lot of speculation about what motivated me. The only answer is the Netherlands,” Rutte said in a speech in parliament, according to Reuters. His comments came ahead of a scheduled no-confidence vote in The Hague on Monday.
“Yesterday morning I made the decision that I will not again be available as leader of the VVD. Once the new cabinet is formed after the elections, I will leave politics.”
Rutte’s announcement comes shortly after he last week said that his four-party coalition government had collapsed over “irreconcilable” differences on immigration policy.
The prime minister and his government will remain in post until a new ruling government is chosen. Opposition lawmakers have called for an immediate election. A fragmented political landscape in the Netherlands means it can take months to form a new government after an election.
The four-party coalition government comprises Rutte’s VVD, the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal party and two centrist parties: the Democrats 66 and the Christian Union.
Known as “Teflon Mark” for his ability to endure political storms during his more than 13 years in power, Rutte has faced intense criticism over a range of major policies in recent years — including a crisis over the Groningen gas field, angering farmers with plans to cut nitrogen emissions and a scandal over child benefits.
The latest political crisis resulted from splits over migration policy.
Rutte has faced pressure from the right wing of his own party to take a tougher stance on immigration, and from the rise of right-wing parties more broadly. He has been trying to limit the scope for immigrant families to reunite in the Netherlands.
Some of the junior coalition partners opposed the measures, insisting that children and parents seeking asylum in the country have the right to be reunited.
Coalition partners of Rutte’s VVD sought to pin the blame of the government’s collapse on the prime minister over the weekend, suggesting he had gone too far with limits on family migration.
Rutte on Friday denied that he was responsible for the cabinet’s collapse and suggested he was open to seeking a fifth term in office, before ultimately scrapping this plan on Monday morning.
Analysts at Dutch lender Rabobank said that the proportional representation political system means the country tends to rely on coalition governments to enact policies.
“The need to build consensus can result in stalemate in key policy areas. This has traditionally been viewed as pretty market friendly as it limits dramatic changes in direction of policy,” analysts at the bank said Monday.