Opposition call for Rutte to step down after cabinet collapses

Jesse Klaver (left) will seek support from Geert Wilders (seated) for his motion to remove Rutte. Photo: ANP/Sem van der Wal

Opposition parties Labour (PvdA) and GroenLinks are pressing for Mark Rutte to step down as prime minister immediately following the collapse of the Dutch government last Friday.

The two parties are planning to table a motion of no confidence in Rutte when parliament debates the fall of the cabinet on Monday. Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islamic party PVV, has said he will support the motion.

The four parties in Rutte’s fourth coalition are under no obligation to support the prime minister after they collectively resigned at the weekend. Mr Rutte and his team will continue as a caretaker government until the general election, which is not expected before the second half of November.

“We need to remove the political sting, and its name is Mark Rutte,” PvdA leader Attje Kuiken told Nieuwsuur on Sunday.

Labour and GroenLinks have said an apolitical prime minister should replace Rutte for the caretaker period, but did not propose any candidates.

The two parties are planning to run a joint list of candidates in November, after they became the second largest group in the Senate with 14 seats following the provincial elections in March.

GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said Rutte was unfit to continue as leader because he had put his party’s interests above the country’s stability in pulling the plug on his own government.

“He has shown that he no longer stands above the parties,” Klaver said. A technocratic leader “can ensure that portfolios such as climate and spending power do not grind to a halt,” he argued.

Other ministers from Rutte’s VVD party would not be asked to quit the cabinet if he were forced to stand down, Kuiken added.

“I would like to see [Eric] van der Burg continue to talk with municipalities about the asylum crisis. I would like to see [Christianne] van der Wal carry on solving the agriculture and nitrogen crisis.

“That’s not where the problem lies. Mark Rutte is the stick-in-the-mud. He’s no longer the prime minister for all Dutch people.”

Organisations representing local government, employers, trade unions and environmental groups sent an open letter to both houses of parliament at the weekend urging them not to let crucial issues such as climate change, farming reforms and housing come to a standstill during the caretaker period.

The organisations said they needed to retain the capacity to “take decisions that are necessary to keep this country running.”

They listed seven key policy areas including asylum, the issue on which the cabinet collapsed. “Refugees will keep coming to the Netherlands in the coming months,” they pointed out.

MPs will decide later this month which policy areas should be declared “controversial” during the caretaker period, meaning the government has no mandate to legislate on them.

Parliament can still pass laws if a majority of members supports them. The last caretaker period spanned almost the whole of 2021, but the government was still able to introduce emergency pandemic control measures including an evening curfew.

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