After government falls, Dutch PM meets with king

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will personally tender his resignation to the king on Saturday after his coalition government collapsed in a row over migration, triggering elections later this year.

King Willem-Alexander was out of the country on vacation when the government fell and flew back to the Netherlands to meet Rutte, who is the country's longest-serving prime minister and has been in power since 2010.

"I will meet him tomorrow and explain exactly what happened," a somber Rutte, the leader of the center-right VVD party, told a news conference Friday evening after the coalition fell.

Their meeting is scheduled for around 1100 GMT on Saturday at the royal Huis Ten Bosch palace in a forest near The Hague. Rutte is leading a caretaker government until elections, expected in mid-November.

Europe has faced growing tensions over how to deal with migration, and it was the issue that finally tore apart the Netherlands' shaky coalition government, Rutte's fourth.

The four coalition parties fell out over Rutte's plans to tighten restrictions on family reunification of asylum seekers, an attempt to curb the numbers after a scandal last year over overcrowded migration centers.

ChristenUnie - a Christian Democratic party that draws its main support from the staunchly Protestant "Bible Belt" in the central Netherlands - and the center-left D66 had strongly opposed Rutte's plan.

Dutch newspapers picked over the carcass of the unstable coalition, which will only take office in January 2022 after a record 271 days of negotiations.

The daily Volkskrant said the cabinet "stumbled out of the starting blocks and never recovered.

- 'Beautiful country' -

The election now promises to be one of the most divisive in a generation, with a toxic brew of issues including migration, angry farmers and the cost of living.

The latest challenge to Rutte's bid for a fifth term comes from an upstart farmers' party that opposes EU-backed environmental regulations, while the Dutch far right remains a threat.

"We can make the Netherlands a beautiful country again, with less asylum seekers and crime, more money and houses for our own people, decent care, plenty of space for our farmers and fishermen," tweeted anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders.

The Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) will try to repeat its success in the Senate elections, which it won earlier this year.

Its leader, Caroline van der Plas, has refused to serve in a coalition with Rutte and hasn't ruled out running for prime minister.

Despite leading her to electoral success for nearly 13 years, Rutte's bid for an unprecedented fifth term also faces challenges from within the VVD.

If the Peasants' Party does well enough in the elections to demand a place in a coalition, Rutte's VVD may be tempted to dump him to keep its place at the top of the government.

Rutte himself has said there were tensions at the party's June conference over migration, and added on Friday that he still had the "energy" for a fifth term but needed to think about it.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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